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With an Introductory Essay on Count 
Gobineau's Life-Work by Dr. Oscar Levy. 
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Though many people have accused this age of irreligion, there is 
at least one point of similarity between modern Europe and that 
pre-Christian Era to which our present religion is due. Just as 
in ancient Palestine, there are living amongst us two kinds of 
prophets — the prophets of evil and disaster, and those of bliss, 
or, as Europe likes to call it, of " progress." As in Palestine of 
old the public usually sides with the lighter, the optimistic, the 
more comfortable sort of people, with the prophets of bliss, while 
Time and Fate invariably decide in favour of the sterner and 
gloomier individuals, the prophets of evil. In the world to-day 
as well as in Palestine of old, the prophets of bliss are the false 
prophets ; the prophets of evil, to-day as of yore, are the true 
ones. Such a true prophet was Count Arthur de Gobineau. 

Even his friends — those few friends whom he gained at the 
end of his life — still thought him unduly pessimistic. Old 
Wagner, who introduced him to the German public, thought of 
brightening his gloom by a little Christian faith, hope, and 
charity, in order to make the pill more palatable to that great 
public, which he, the great Stage-manager, knew so well. Other 
Germans — Chamberlain, Schemann, and the Gobineau school — 
poured a great deal of water into his wine, sweetened it with 
patriotic syrups, adulterated it with their own pleasant inventions, 
which were all too readily swallowed by a gullible and credulous 
generation. But stern old Gobineau knew the world better than 
his young and cheerful offspring. He had seen through all that 
boisterous gaiety of the age, all its breathless labour, all its 
technical advancement, all its materialistic progress, and had 
diagnosed, behind it that muddle of moral values which our 
forefathers have bequeathed to us and which in our genera- 
tion has only become a greater muddle still. The catastrophe 
which Gobineau had prophesied to an Aristocracy which had 



forgotten its tradition, to a Democracy which had no root in 
reality, to a Christianity which he thought entirely inefficient, 
is now upon us. 

Under the stress of the present misfortunes, we frequently hear 
that all our previous opinions need revision, that we have to 
forget many things and to learn afresh still more, that we must 
try to build up our civilization on a safer basis, that we must 
reconsider and re-construct the values received from former ages. 
It is therefore our duty, I think, to turn back to those prophets 
who accused our forefathers of being on the road to destruction, 
all the more so as these prophets were likewise true poets 
who tried as such to point out the right road, endeavouring 
to remedy, as far as their insight went, the evil of their time. 
This is the best, and I trust a perfectly satisfactory, reason for 
the translation of " The Inequality of Human Races." 

This book, written as early as 1853, is no doubt a youthful and 
somewhat bewildering performance, but it gives us the basis of 
Gobineau's creed, his belief in Race and Aristocracy as the first 
condition of civilization, his disbelief in the influence of environ- 
ment, his distrust in the efficacy of religion and morality. The 
latter kind of scepticism brings him into relationship with 
Nietzsche, who has even accentuated Count Gobineau's sus- 
picions and who has branded our morality as Slave-Morality, and 
consequently as harmful to good government. What a Europe 
without Masters, but with plenty of Half-masters and Slaves, 
was driving at, Gobineau foresaw as well as Nietzsche. 

I sincerely hope that no intelligent reader will overlook this 
sceptical attitude of Gobineau towards religion, because that is 
a point of great importance at the present time, when our faith 
will certainly thrive again on a misfortune, which, by the pro- 
pagation of slave-values, it indirectly has caused. It is this 
scepticism against the Church and its Semitic values, which 
separates a Gobineau from Disraeli, to whom otherwise — in his 
rejection of Buckle, Darwin, and their science, in his praise of 
Race and Aristocracy, and in his prophecy of evil — he is so nearly 
related. Disraeli still believed in a Church based upon a revival 



of the old principles, Gobineau, like Nietzsche, had no hope 
whatever in this respect. It is the great merit of both Nietzsche 
and Gobineau, that they were not, like Disraeli, trying to revive 
a corpse, but that they frankly acknowledged, the one that 
the corpse was dead, the other that it was positively poisoning 
the air. The occasional bows which Gobineau makes to the 
Church cannot, I repeat, mislead any serious critics of his work, 
especially if they likewise consult his later books, about which, 
by the way, I have spoken at greater length elsewhere.* Both 
Spinoza and Montaigne had the same laudable habit, and they 
did not mean it either. For the first business of a great free- 
thinker is not to be mistaken for a little one ; his greatest misfor- 
tune is to be "understood " by the wrong class of people, and thus 
an occasional bow to the old and venerable Power — apart from 
the safety which it procures — protects him from an offensive 
handshake with enthusiastic and unbalanced disciples and 

Geneva, July 1915 

* See my Introduction to Count Gobineau's " Renaissance " 




The great events — the bloody wars, the revolutions, and the 
breaking up of laws — which have been rife for so many years in 
the States of Europe, are apt to turn men's minds to the study 
of political problems. While the vulgar consider merely im- 
mediate results, and heap all their praise and blame on the little 
electric spark that marks the contact with their own interests, 
the more serious thinker will seek to discover the hidden causes 
of these terrible upheavals. He will descend, lamp in hand, 
by the obscure paths of philosophy and history ; and in the 
analysis of the human heart or the careful search among the 
annals of the past he will try to gain the master-key to the 
enigma which has so long baffled the imagination of man. 

Like every one else, I have felt all the prickings of curiosity 
to which our restless modern world gives rise. But when I tried 
to study, as completely as I could, the forces underlying this 
world, I found the horizon of my inquiry growing wider and 
wider. I had to push further and further into the past, and, 
forced by analogy almost in spite of myself, to lift my eyes 
further and further into the future. It seemed that I should 
aspire to know not merely the immediate causes of the plagues 
that are supposed to chasten us, but also to trace the more 
remote reasons for those social evils which the most meagre 
knowledge of history will show to have prevailed, in exactly the 
same form, among all the nations that ever lived, as well as those 

* This dedication and the following preface apply to the whole work, 
of which the present volume contains the first book. The remaining 
books are occupied by a detailed examination of the civilizations men- 
tioned at the end of this volume, and it is of these as well as the present 
book that the author is thinking, in his preface, when speaking of his 
imitators. A few passages in the dedication that relate exclusively to 
these books have been omitted. — Tr. 



which survive to-day — evils that in all likelihood will exist 
among nations yet unborn. 

Further, the present age, I thought, offered peculiar facilities 
for such an inquiry. While its very restlessness urges us on to 
a kind of historical chemistry, it also makes our labours easier. 
The thick mists, the profound darkness that from time im- 
memorial veiled the beginnings of civilizations different from 
our own, now lift and dissolve under the sun of science. An 
analytic method of marvellous delicacy has made a Rome, un- 
known to Livy, rise before us under the hands of Niebuhr, and 
has unravelled for us the truths that lay hid among the legendary 
tales of early Greece. In another quarter of the world, the 
Germanic peoples, so long misunderstood, appear to us now as 
great and majestic as they were thought barbarous by the writers 
of the Later Empire. Egypt opens its subterranean tombs, trans- 
lates its hieroglyphs, and reveals the age of its pyramids. Assyria 
lays bare its palaces with their endless inscriptions, which had till 
yesterday been buried beneath their own ruins. The Iran of 
Zoroaster has held no secrets from the searching eyes of Burnouf , 
and the Vedas of early India take us back to events not far from the 
dawn of creation. From all these conquests together, so important 
in themselves, we gain a larger and truer understanding of Homer, 
Herodotus, and especially of the first chapters of the Bible, that 
deep well of truth, whose riches we can only begin to appreciate 
when we go down into it with a fully enlightened mind. 

These sudden and unexpected discoveries are naturally not 
always beyond the reach of criticism. They are far from giving 
us complete lists of dynasties, or an unbroken sequence of reigns 
and events. In spite, however, of the fragmentary nature of 
their results, many of them are admirable for my present purpose, 
and far more fruitful than the most accurate chronological tables 
would be. I welcome, most of all, the revelation of manners and 
customs, of the very portraits and costumes, of vanished peoples. 
We know the condition of their art. Their whole life, public and 
private, physical and moral, is unrolled before us, and it becomes 
possible to reconstruct, with the aid of the most authentic 



materials, that which constitutes the personality of races and 
mainly determines their value. 

With such a treasury of knowledge, new or newly understood, 
to draw upon, no one can claim any longer to explain the com- 
plicated play of social forces, the causes of the rise and decay of 
nations, in the light of the purely abstract and hypothetical 
arguments supplied by a sceptical philosophy. Since we have 
now an abundance of positive facts crowding upon us from all 
sides, rising from every sepulchre, and lying ready to every 
seeker's hand, we may no longer, like the theorists of the 
Revolution, form a collection of imaginary beings out of clouds, 
and amuse ourselves by moving these chimeras about like 
marionettes, in a political environment manufactured to suit 
them. The reality is now too pressing, too well known ; and it 
forbids games like these, which are always unseasonable, and 
sometimes impious. There is only one tribunal competent to 
decide rationally upon the general characteristics of man, and 
that is history — a severe judge, I confess, and one to whom we 
may well fear to appeal in an age so wretched as our own. 

Not that the past is itself without stain. It includes every- 
thing, and so may well have many faults, and more than one 
shameful dereliction of duty, to confess. The men of to-day 
might even be justified in flourishing in its face some new merits 
of their own. But suppose, as an answer to their charges, that 
the past suddenly called up the gigantic shades of the heroic 
ages, what would they say then ? If it reproached them with 
having compromised the names of religious faith, political 
honour, and moral duty, what would they answer ? If it told 
them that they are no longer fit for anything but to work out 
the knowledge of which the principles had already been recognized 
and laid down by itself ; that the virtue of the ancients has be- 
come a laughing-stock, that energy has passed from man to 
steam, that the light of poetry is out, that its great prophets 
are no more, and that what men call their interests are confined 
to the most pitiful tasks of daily life ; — how could they defend 
themselves ? 



They could merely reply that not every beautiful thing is dead 
which has been swallowed up in silence ; it may be only sleeping. 
All ages, they might say, have beheld periods of transition, when 
life grapples with suffering and in the end arises victorious and 
splendid. Just as Chaldaa in its dotage was succeeded by the 
young and vigorous Persia, tottering Greece by virile Rome, and 
the degenerate rule of Augustulus by the kingdoms of the noble 
Teutonic princes, so the races of modern times will regain their 
lost youth. 

This was a hope I myself cherished for a brief moment, and I 
should like to have at once flung back in the teeth of History its 
accusations and gloomy forebodings, had I not been suddenly 
struck with the devastating thought, that in my hurry I was 
putting forward something that was absolutely without proof. 
I began to look about for proofs, and so, in my sympathy for 
the living, was more and more driven to plumb to their depths 
the secrets of the dead. 

Then, passing from one induction to another, I was gradually 
penetrated by the conviction that the racial question over- 
shadows all other problems of history, that it holds the key to 
them all, and that the inequality of the races from whose fusion 
a people is formed is enough to explain the whole course of its 
destiny. Every one must have had some inkling of this colossal 
truth, for every one must have seen how certain agglomerations 
of men have descended on some country, and utterly trans- 
formed its way of life ; how they have shown themselves able to 
strike out a new vein of activity where, before their coming, all 
had been sunk in torpor. Thus, to take an example, a new era 
of power was opened for Great Britain by the Anglo-Saxon 
invasion, thanks to a decree of Providence, which by sending to 
this island some of the peoples governed by the sword of your 
Majesty's illustrious ancestors, was to bring two branches of the 
same nation under the sceptre of a single house — a house that 
can trace its glorious title to the dim sources of the heroic nation 

Recognizing that both strong and weak races exist, Kpreferred 



to examine the former, to analyse their qualities, and especially 
to follow them back to their origins. By this method I convinced 
myself at last that everything great, noble, and fruitful in the 
works of man on this earth, in science, art, and civilization, 
derives from a single starting-point, is the development of a single 
germ and the result of a single thought ; it belongs to one family 
alone, the different branches of which have reigned in all the 
civilized countries of the universeJ 




The fall of civilizations is the most striking, and, at the same time, 
the most obscure, of all the phenomena of history. It is a 
calamity that strikes fear into the soul, and yet has always some- 
thing so mysterious and so vast in reserve, that the thinker is 
never weary of looking at it, of studying it, of groping for its 
secrets. No doubt the birth and growth of peoples offer a very 
remarkable subject for the observer ; the successive development 
of societies, their gains, their conquests, their triumphs, have 
something that vividly takes the imagination and holds it captive. 
But all these events, however great one may think them, seem 
to be easy of explanation ; one accepts them as the mere outcome 
of the intellectual gifts of man. Once we recognize these gifts, 
we are not astonished at their results ; they explain, by the bare 
fact of their existence, the great stream of being whose source 
they are. So, on this score, there need be no difficulty or hesita- 
tion. But when we see that after a time of strength and glory 
all human societies come to their decline and fall — all, I say, not 
this or that ; when we see in what awful silence the earth shows 
us, scattered on its surface, the wrecks of the civilizations that 
have preceded our own — not merely the famous civilizations, 
but also many others, of which we know nothing but the names, 
and some, that lie as skeletons of stone in deep world-old forests, 
and have not left us even this shadow of a memory ; when the 
mind returns to our modern States, reflects on their extreme 
youth, and confesses that they are a growth of yesterday, and 
that some of them are already toppling to their fall : then at last 


we recognize, not without a certain philosophic shudder, that the 
words of the prophets on the instability of mortal things apply 
with the same rigour to civilizations as to peoples, to peoples as 
to States, to States as to individuals ; and we are forced to affirm 
that every assemblage of men, however ingenious the network 
of social relations that protects it, acquires on the very day of 
its birth, hidden among the elements of its life, the seed of an 
inevitable death. 

But what is this seed, this principle of death ? Is it uniform, 
as its results are, and do all civilizations perish from the same 
cause ? 

At first sight we are tempted to answer in the negative ; for 
we have seen the fall of many empires, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, 
Rome, amid the clash of events that had no likeness one to the 
other. Yet, if we pierce below the surface, we soon find that 
this very necessity of coming to an end, that weighs imperiously 
on all societies without exception, presupposes such a general 
cause, which, though hidden, cannot be explained away. When 
we start from this fixed principle of natural death — a principle 
unaffected by all the cases of violent death, — we see that all 
civilizations, after they have lasted some time, betray to the 
observer some little symptoms of uneasiness, which are difficult to 
define, but not less difficult to deny ; these are of a like nature in 
all times and all places. We may admit one obvious point of 
difference between the fall of States and that of civilizations, 
when we see the same kind of culture sometimes persisting in a 
country under foreign rule and weathering every storm of 
calamity, at other times being destroyed or changed by the 
slightest breath of a contrary wind ; but we are, in the 
end, more and more driven to the idea that the principle 
of death which can be seen at the base of all societies is 
not only inherent in their life, but also uniform and the same 
for all. 

To the elucidation of this great fact I have devoted the studies 
of which I here give the results. 

We moderns are the first to have recognized that every assem- 


blage of men, together with the kind of culture it produces, is 
doomed to perish. Former ages did not believe this. Among 
the early Asiatics, the religious consciousness, moved by the 
spectacle of great political catastrophes, as if by some apparition 
from another world, attributed them to the anger of heaven 
smiting a nation for its sins ; they were, it was thought, a chastise- 
ment meet to bring to repentance the criminals yet unpunished. 
The Jews, misinterpreting the meaning of the Covenant, supposed 
that their Empire would never come to an end. Rome, at the 
very moment when she was nearing the precipice, did not doubt 
that her own empire was eternal.*. But the knowledge of later 
generations has increased with experience ; and just as no one 
doubts of the mortal state of humanit}', because all the men who 
preceded us are dead, so we firmly believe that the days of 
peoples are numbered, however great the number may be ; 
for all those who held dominion before us have now fallen out of 
the race. The wisdom of the ancients yields little that throws 
light on our subject, except one fundamental axiom, the recogni- 
tion of the finger of God in the conduct of this world ; to this 
firm and ultimate principle we must adhere, accepting it in the 
full sense in which it is understood by the Catholic Church. It 
is certain that no civilization falls to the ground unless God 
wills it ; and when we apply to the mortal state of all societies 
the sacred formula used by the ancient priesthoods to explain 
some striking catastrophes, which they wrongly considered as 
isolated facts, we are asserting a truth of the first importance, 
which should govern the search for all the truths of this world. 
Add, if you will, that all societies perish because they are sinful — 
and I will agree with you ; this merely sets up a true parallel to 
the case of individuals, finding in sin the germ of destruction. 
In this regard, there is no objection to saying that human 
societies share the fate of their members ; they contract the stain 
from them, and come to a like end. This is to reason merely by 
the light of nature. But when we have once admitted and 

* Amedee Thierry, La Gaule sous I' administration romaine, vol. i, 
p. 244. 


pondered these two truths, we shall find no further help, I repeat, 
in the wisdom of the ancients. 

That wisdom tells us nothing definite as to the ways in which 
the Divine will moves in order to compass the death of peoples ; 
it is, on the contrary, driven to consider these ways as essentially 
mysterious. It is seized with a pious terror at the sight of ruins, 
and admits too easily that the fallen peoples could not have been 
thus shaken, struck down, and hurled into the gulf, except by the 
aid of miracles. I can readily believe that certain events have 
had a miraculous element, so far as this is stated by Scripture ; 
but where, as is usually the case, the formal testimony of Scripture 
is wanting, we may legitimately hold the ancient opinion to be 
incomplete and unenlightened. We may, in fact, take the 
opposite view, and recognize that the heavy hand of God is laid 
without ceasing on our societies, as the effect of a decision pro- 
nounced before the rise of the first people ; and that the blow 
falls according to rule and foreknowledge, by virtue of fixed 
edicts, inscribed in the code of the universe by the side of other 
laws which, in their rigid severity, govern organic and inorganic 
nature alike. 

We may justly reproach the philosophy of the early sacred 
writers with a lack of experience ; and so, we may say, they 
explain a mystery merely by enunciating a theological truth 
which, however certain, is itself another mystery. They have not 
pushed their inquiries so far as to observe the facts of the natural 
world. But at least one cannot accuse them of misunderstanding 
the greatness of the problem and scratching for solutions at the 
surface of the ground. In fact, they have been content to state 
the question in lofty language ; and if they have not solved it, 
or even thrown light upon it, at least they have not made it a 
breeder of errors. This puts them far above the rationalistic 
schools and all their works. 

The great minds of Athens and Rome formulated the theory, 
accepted by later ages, that States, civilizations, and peoples, 
are destroyed only by luxury, effeminacy, misgovernment, 
fanaticism, and the corruption of morals. These causes, taken 


singly or together, were declared to be responsible for the fall of 
human societies ; the natural corollary being that in the absence 
of these causes there can be no solvent whatever. The final 
conclusion is that societies, more fortunate than men, die only a 
violent death ; and if a nation can be imagined as escaping the 
destructive forces I have mentioned, there is no reason why 
it should not last as long as the earth itself. When the ancients 
invented this theory, they did not see where it was leading them ; 
they regarded it merely as a buttress for their ethical notions, 
to establish which was, as we know, the sole aim of their historical 
method. In their narrative of events, they were so taken up 
with the idea of bringing out the admirable influence of virtue, 
and the deplorable effects of vice and crime, that anything which 
marred the harmony of this excellent moral picture had little 
interest for them, and so was generally forgotten or set aside. 
This method was not only false and petty, but also had very often 
a different result from that intended by its authors ; for it applied 
the terms "virtue" and "vice" in an arbitrary way, as the needs 
of the moment dictated. Yet, to a certain extent, the theory 
is excused by the stern and noble sentiment that lay at the base 
of it ; and if the genius of Plutarch and Tacitus has built mere 
romances and libels on this foundation, at any rate the libels 
are generous, and the romances sublime. 

I wish I could show myself as indulgent to the use that the 
authors of the eighteenth century have made of the theory. 
But there is too great a difference between their masters and 
themselves. The former had even a quixotic devotion to the 
maintenance of the social order ; the latter were eager for 
novelty and furiously bent on destruction. The ancients made 
their false ideas bear a noble progeny ; the moderns have pro- 
duced only monstrous abortions. Their theory has furnished them 
with arms against all principles of government, which they have 
reproached in turn with tyranny, fanaticism, and corruption. 
The Voltairean way of " preventing the ruin of society" is to 
destroy religion, law, industry, and commerce, under the pretext 
that religion is another name for fanaticism, law for despotism, 


industry and commerce for luxury and corruption. Where so 
many errors reign, I certainly agree that we have " bad govern- 

I have not the least desire to write a polemic ; my object is 
merely to show how an idea common to Thucydides and the 
Abbe Raynal can produce quite opposite results. It makes 
for conservatism in the one, for an anarchic cynicism in the 
other — and is an error in both. The causes usually given for 
the fall of nations are not necessarily the real causes ; and 
though I willingly admit that they may come to the surface in 
the death-agony of a people, I deny that they have enough power, 
enough destructive energy, to draw on, by themselves, the 
irremediable catastrophe. 



I must first explain what I understand by a " society." I do not 
mean the more or less extended sphere within which, in some 
form or other, a distinct sovereignty is exercised. The Athenian 
democracy is not a " society " in our sense, any more than 
the Kingdom of Magadha, the empire of Pontus, or the Caliphate 
of Egypt in the time of the Fatimites. They are fragments of 
societies, which, no doubt, change, coalesce, or break up according 
to the natural laws that I am investigating ; but their existence 
or death does not imply the existence or death of a society. 
Their formation is usually a mere transitory phenomenon, having 
but a limited or indirect influence on the civilization in which 
they arise. What I mean by a " society " is an assemblage of 
men moved by similar ideas and the same instincts ; their 
political unity may be more or less imperfect, but their social 
unity must be complete. Thus Egypt, Assyria, Greece, India, 
and China were, or still are, the theatre where distinct and 
separate societies have played out their own destinies, save when 
these have been brought for a time into conjunction by political 
troubles. As I shall speak of the parts only when my argument 
applies to the whole, I shall use the words " nation " or " people " 
either in the wide or the narrow sense, without any room for 
ambiguity. I return now to my main subject, which is to show 
that fanaticism, luxury, -corruption of morals, and irreligion do 
not necessarily bring about the ruin of nations. 

All these phenomena have been found in a highly developed 
state, either in isolation or together, among peoples which were 
actually the better for them — or at any rate not the worse. 



The Aztec Empire in America seems to have existed mainly 
" for the greater glory " of fanaticism. I cannot imagine any- 
thing more fanatical than a society like that of the Aztecs, which 
rested on a religious foundation, continually watered by the blood 
of human sacrifice. It has been denied,* perhaps with some 
truth, that the ancient peoples of Europe ever practised ritual 
murder on victims who were regarded as innocent, with the 
exception of shipwrecked sailors and prisoners of war. But for 
the ancient Mexicans one victim was as good as another. With a 
ferocity recognized by a modern physiologist f as characteristic 
of the races of the New World, they massacred their fellow 
citizens on their altars, without pity, without flinching, and 
without discrimination. This did not prevent their being a 
powerful, industrious, and wealthy people, which would cer- 
tainly for many ages have gone on flourishing, reigning, and 
throat-cutting, had not the genius of Hernando Cortes and the 
courage of his companions stepped in to put an end to the 
monstrous existence of such an Empire. Thus fanaticism does 
not cause the fall of States. 

Luxury and effeminacy have no better claims than fanaticism. 
Their effects are to be seen only in the upper classes ; and though 
they assumed different forms in the ancient world, among the 
Greeks, the Persians, and the Romans, I doubt whether they were 
ever brought to a greater pitch of refinement than at the present 
day, in France, Germany, England, and Russia — especially in 
the last two. And it is just these two, England and Russia, that, 
of all the States of modern Europe, seem to be gifted with a 
peculiar vitality. Again, in the Middle Ages, the Venetians, the 
Genoese, and the Pisans crowded their shops with the treasures 
of the whole world ; they displayed them in their palaces, and 
carried them over every sea. But they were certainly none the 
weaker for that. Thus luxury and effeminacy are in no way the 
necessary causes of weakness and ruin. 

Again, the corruption of morals, however terrible a scourge it 

* By C. F.Weber, Lucani Pharsalia (Leipzig, 1828), vol. i, pp. 122-3, note. 
t Prichard, "Natural History of Man." Dr. Martius is still more 
explicit. Cf. Martius and Spix, Reise in Brasilien, vol. i, pp. 379-80. 


may be, is not always an agent of destruction. If it were, the 
military power and commercial prosperity of a nation would have 
to vary directly with the purity of its morals ; but this is by no 
means the case. The curious idea that the early Romans had 
all the virtues * has now been rightly given up by most people. 
We no longer see anything very edifying in the patricians of the 
early Republic, who treated their wives like slaves, their children 
like cattle, and their creditors like wild beasts. If there were still 
any advocates to plead their unrighteous cause by arguing from 
,an assumed " variation in the moral standard of different ages," 
it would not be very hard to show how flimsy such an argument is. 
In all ages the misuse of power has excited equal indignation. 
If the rape of Lucrece did not bring about the expulsion of the 
kings, if the tribunate f was not established owing to the attempt 
of Appius Claudius, at any rate the real causes that lay behind 
these two great revolutions, by cloaking themselves under such 
pretexts, reveal the state of public morality at the time. No, 
we cannot account for the greater vigour of all early peoples by 
alleging their greater virtue. From the beginning of history, 
there has been no human society, however small, that has not 
contained the germ of every vice. And yet, however burdened 
with this load of depravity, the nations seem to march on very 
comfortably, and often, in fact, to owe their greatness to their 
detestable customs. The Spartans enjoyed a long life and the 
admiration of men merely owing to their laws, which were those 
of a robber-state. Was the fall of the Phoenicians due to the 
corruption that gnawed their vitals and was disseminated by 
them over the whole world ? Not at all ; on the contrary, this 
corruption was the main instrument of their power and glory. 
From the day when they first touched the shores of the Greek 
islands,! an d went their way, cheating their customers, robbing 

* Balzac, Lettre a madame la duchess e de Montausier. 

t The power of the Tribunate was revived after Appius's decemvirate 
in 450 B.C., but the office had been founded more than forty years before. 
On the other hand, consular tribunes were first elected after 450 (in 
445) ; but the consular tribunate could hardly be described as a " great 
revolution." The author may be confusing the two tribunates. — Tr. 

X Cp. Homer, "Odyssey," xv, 415 sqq. 


their hosts, abducting women for the slave-market, stealing in 
one place to sell in another — from that day, it is true, their 
reputation fell not unreasonably low ; but they did not prosper 
any the less for that, and they hold a place in history which is 
quite unaffected by all the stories of their greed and treachery. 

Far from admitting the superior moral character of early 
societies, I have no doubt that nations, as they grow older and 
so draw nearer their fall, present a far more satisfactory appear- 
ance from the censor's point of view. Customs become less 
rigid, rough edges become softened, the path of life is made 
easier, the rights existing between man and man have had time 
to become better defined and understood, and so the theories of 
social justice have reached, little by little, a higher degree of 
delicacy. At the time when the Greeks overthrew the Empire 
of Darius, or when the Goths entered Rome, there were probably 
far more honest men in Athens, Babylon, and the imperial city 
than in the glorious days of Harmodius, Cyrus the Great, and 
Valerius Publicola. 

We need not go back to those distant epochs, but may judge 
them by ourselves. Paris is certainly one of the places on this 
earth where civilization has touched its highest point, and where 
the contrast with primitive ages is most marked ; and yet you 
will find a large number of religious and learned people admitting 
that in no place and time were there so many examples of practical 
virtue, of sincere piety, of saintly lives governed by a fine sense 
of duty, as are to be met to-day in the great modern city. The 
ideals of goodness are as high now as they ever were in the loftiest 
minds of the seventeenth century ; and they have laid aside the 
bitterness, the strain of sternness and savagery— I was almost 
saying, of pedantry — that sometimes coloured them in that age. 
And so, as a set-off to the frightful perversities of the modern 
spirit, we find, in the very temple where that spirit has set up 
the high altar of its power, a striking contrast, which never 
appeared to former centuries in the same consoling light as it 
has to our own. 

I do not even believe that there is a lack of great men in periods 



of corruption and decadence ; and by " great men " I mean those 
most richly endowed with energy of character and the masculine 
virtues. If I look at the list of the Roman Emperors (most of 
them, by the way, as high above their subjects in merit as they 
were in rank) I find names like Trajan, Antoninus Pius, Septimius 
Severus, and Jovian ; and below the throne, even among the city 
mob, I see with admiration all the great theologians, the great 
martyrs, the apostles of the primitive Church, to say nothing of 
the virtuous Pagans. Strong, brave, and active spirits filled the 
camps and the Italian towns ; and one may doubt whether in 
the time of Cincinnatus, Rome held, in proportion, so many men 
of eminence in all the walks of practical life. The testimony of 
the facts is conclusive. 

Thus men of strong character, men of talent and energy, so 
far from being unknown to human societies in the time of their 
decadence and old age, are actually to be found in greater 
abundance than in the days when an empire is young. Further, 
the ordinary level of morality is higher in the later period than 
in the earlier. It is not generally true to say that in States on 
the point of death the corruption of morals is any more virulent 
than in those just born. It is equally doubtful whether this 
corruption brings about their fall ; for some States, far from 
dying of their perversity, have lived and grown fat on it. One 
may go further, and show that moral degradation is not neces- 
sarily a mortal disease at all ; for, as against the other maladies 
of society, it has the advantage of being curable ; and the cure 
is sometimes very rapid. 

In fact, the morals of any particular people are in continual 
ebb and flow throughout its history. To go no further afield 
than our own France, we may say that, in the fifth and sixth 
centuries, the conquered race of the Gallo-Romans were certainly 
better than their conquerors from a moral point of view. Taken 
individually, they were not always their inferiors even in courage 
and the military virtues.* In the following ce nturies, when the 

* Augustin Thierry, Recits des temps mirovingiens ; see especially the 
story of Mummolus. 


two races had begunjtp irrtermin^e JL£ra4o have deterio- 
rated ; and we have no reason to be very proud of the picture 
that was presented by our dear country about the eighth and 
ninth centuries. But in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth, 
a great change came over the scene. Society had succeeded in 
harmonizing its most discordant elements, and the state of 
morals was reasonably good. The ideas of the time were not 
favourable to the little casuistries that keep a man from the right 
path even when he wishes to walk in it. The fourteenth and 
fifteenth centuries were times of terrible conflict and perversity. 
Brigandage reigned supreme. It was a period of decadence in 
the strictest sense of the word ; and the decadence was shown 
in a thousand ways. In view of the debauchery, the tyranny, 
and the massacres of that age, of the complete withering of all 
the finer feelings in every section of the State — in the nobles who 
plundered their villeins, in the citizens who sold their country to 
England, in a clergy that was false to its professions — one might 
have thought that the whole society was about to crash to the 
ground and bury its shame deep under its own ruins. . . . The 
crash never came. The society continued to live ; it devised 
remedies, it beat back its foes, it emerged from the dark cloud. 
The sixteenth century was far more reputable than its prede- 
cessor, in spite of its orgies of blood, which were a pale reflection 
of those of the preceding age. St. Bartholomew's day is not such 
a shameful memory as the massacre of the Armagnacs. Finally, 
the French people passed from this semi-barbarous twilight 
into the pure splendour of day, the age of Fenelon, Bossuet, and 
the Montausier. Thus, up to Louis XIV, our history shows a 
series of rapid changes from good to evil, from evil to good ; 
while the real vitality of the nation has little to do with its moral 
condition. I have touched lightly on the larger curves of change ; 
to trace the multitude of lesser changes within these would 
require many pages. To speak even of what we have all but 
seen with our own eyes, is it not clear that in every decade since 
1787 the standard of morality has varied enormously ? I con- 
clude that the corruption of morals is a fleeting and unstable 


phenomenon : it becomes sometimes worse and sometimes better, 
lind so cannot be considered as necessarily causing the ruin of 

I must examine here an argument, put forward in our time, 
which never entered people's heads in the eighteenth century ; 
but as it fits in admirably with the subject of the preceding 
paragraph, I could not find a better place in which to speak of it. 
Many people have come to think that the end of a society is at 
hand when its religious ideas tend to weaken and disappear. 
They see a kind of connexion between the open profession of the 
doctrines of Zeno and Epicurus at Athens and Rome, with the 
consequent abandonment (according to them) of the national 
cults, and the fall of the two republics. They fail to notice that 
these are virtually the only examples that can be given of such 
a coincidence. The Persian Empire at the time of its fall was 
wholly under the sway of the Magi. Tyre, Carthage, Judaea, the 
Aztec andPeruvian monarchies were struck down while fanatically 
clinging to their altars. Thus it cannot be maintained that all 
the peoples whose existence as a nation is being destroyed are 
at that moment expiating the sin they committed in deserting 
the faith of their fathers. Further, even the two examples that 
go to support the theory seem to prove much more than they 
really do. I deny absolutely that the ancient cults were ever 
given up in Rome or Athens, until the day when they were 
supplanted in the hearts of all men by the victorious religion of 
Christ. In other words, I believe that there has never been a 
real breach of continuity in the religious beliefs of any nation on 
this earth. The outward form or inner meaning of the creed 
may have changed ; but we shall always find some Gallic Teutates 
making way for the Roman Jupiter, Jupiter for the Christian 
God, without any interval of unbelief, in exactly the same way 
as the dead give up their inheritance to the living. Hence, as 
there hats never been a nation of which one could say that it had 
no faith at all, we have no right to assume that " the lack of faith 
causes the destruction of States." 

I quite see the grounds on which such a view is based. Its 



defenders will tell us of " the notorious fact " that a little before 
the time of Pericles at Athens, and about the age of the Scipios 
at Rome the upper classes became more and more prone, first 
to reason about their religion, then to doubt it, and finally 
to give up all faith in it, and to take pride in being atheists. 
Little by little, we shall be told, the habit of atheism spread, 
until there was no one with any pretensions to intellect at 
all who did not defy one augur to pass another without 

This opinion has a grain of truth, but is largely false. Say, 
if you will, that Aspasia, at the end of her little suppers, and 
Laelius, in the company of his friends, made a virtue of mocking 
at the sacred beliefs of their country ; no one will contradict 
you. But they would not have been allowed to vent their ideas 
too publicly ; and yet they lived at the two most brilliant periods 
of Greek and Roman history. The imprudent conduct of his 
mistress all but cost Pericles himself very dear ; we remember 
the tears he shed in open court, tears which would not of them- 
selves have secured the acquittal of the fair infidel. Think, too, 
of the official language held by contemporary poets, how Sophocles 
and Aristophanes succeeded ^Eschylus as the stern champions of 
outraged deity. The whole nation believed in its gods, regarded 
Socrates as a revolutionary and a criminal, and wished to see 
Anaxagoras brought to trial and condemned. . . . What of the 
later ages ? Did the impious theories of the philosophers succeed 
at any time in reaching the masses ? Not for a single day. 
Scepticism remained a luxury of the fashionable world andof 
that world alone. One may call it useless to speak of the thoughts 
of the plain citizens, the country folk, and the slaves, who had no 
influence in the government, and could not impose their ideas 
on their rulers. They had, however, a very real influence ; and the 
proof is that until paganism was at its last gasp, their temples 
and shrines had to be kept going, and their acolytes to be paid. 
The most eminent and enlightened men, the most fervent in their 
unbelief, had not only to accept the public honour of wearing 
the priestly robe, but to undertake the most disagreeable duties 



of the cult — they who were accustomed to turn over, day and 
night, tnanu diurna, manu nocturna, the pages of Lucretius. 
Not only did they go through these rites on ceremonial occasions, 
but they used their scanty hours of leisure, hours snatched with 
difficulty from the life-and-death game of politics, in composing 
treatises on augury. I am referring to the great Julius.* Well, 
all the emperors after him had to hold the office of high-priest, 
even Constantine. He, certainly, had far stronger reason than 
all his predecessors for shaking off a yoke so degrading to his 
honour as a Christian prince ; yet he was forced by public opinion, 
that blazed up for the last time before being extinguished for 
ever, to come to terms with the old national religion. Thus it 
was not the faith of the plain citizens, the country folk, and the 
slaves that was of small account ; it was the theories of the men 
of culture that mattered nothing. They protested in vain, in 
the name of reason and good sense, against the absurdities of 
paganism ; the mass of the people neither would nor could give 
up one belief before they had been provided with another. They 
proved once more the great truth that it is affirmation, not 
negation, which is of service in the business of this world. So 
strongly did men feel this truth in the third century that there 
was a religious reaction among the higher classes. The reaction 
was serious and general, and lasted till the world definitely passed 
into the arms of the Church. In fact, the supremacy of philo- 
sophy reached its highest point under the Antonines and began 
to decline soon after their death. I need not here go deeply into 
this question, however interesting it may be for the historian of 
ideas ; it will be enough for me to show that the revolution 

* Caesar, the democrat and sceptic, knew how to hold language con- 
trary to his opinions when it was necessary. His funeral oration on his 
aunt is very curious : " On the mother's side," he said, " Julia was 
descended from kings ; on her father's, from the immortal gods : for 
the Marcian Reges, whose name her mother bore, were sprung from 
Ancus Marcius, while Venus is the ancestress of the Julii, the clan to which 
belongs the family of the Caesars. Thus in our blood is mingled at the 
same time the sanctity of kings, who are the mightiest of men, and the 
awful majesty of the gods, who hold kings themselves in their power " 
(Suetonius, " Julius," p. 6). Nothing could be more monarchical ; and 
also, for an atheist, nothing could be more religious. 



gained ground as the years went on, and to bring out its 
immediate cause. 

The older the Roman world became, the greater was the part 
played by the army. From the emperor, who invariably came 
from the ranks, down to the pettiest officer in his Praetorian 
guard and the prefect of the most unimportant district, every 
official had begun his career on the parade-ground, under the 
vine-staff of the centurion ; in other words they had all sprung 
from the mass of the people, of whose unquenchable piety I have 
already spoken. When they had scaled the heights of office, 
they found confronting them, to their intense annoyance and 
dismay, the ancient aristocracy of the municipalities, the local 
senators, who took pleasure in regarding them as upstarts, and 
would gladly have turned them to ridicule if they had dared. 
Thus the real masters of the State and the once predominant 
families were at daggers drawn. The commanders of the army 
were believers and fanatics — Maximin, for example, and Galerius, 
and a hundred others. The senators and decurions still found 
their chief delight in the literature of the sceptics ; but as they 
actually lived at court, that is to say among soldiers, they were 
forced to adopt a way of speaking and an official set of opinions 
which should not put them to any risk. Gradually an atmosphere 
of devotion spread through the Empire ; and this led the philo- 
sophers themselves, with Euhemerus at their head, to invent 
systems of reconciling the theories of the rationalists with the 
State religion — a movement in which the Emperor Julian was the 
most powerful spirit. There is no reason to give much praise to 
this renaissance of pagan piety, for it caused most of the persecu- 
tions under which our martyrs have suffered. The masses, 
whose religious feelings had been wounded by the atheistic sects, 
had bided their time so long as they were ruled by the upper 
classes. But as soon as the empire had become democratic, and 
the pride of these classes had been brought low, then the populace 
determined to have their revenge. They made a mistake, 
however, in their victims, and cut the throats of the Christians, 
whom they took for philosophers, and accused of impiety. 



What a difference there was between this and an earlier age ! 
The really sceptical pagan was King Agrippa, who wished to hear 
St. Paul merely out of curiosity.* He listened to him, disputed 
with him, took him for a madman, but did not dream of punishing 
him for thinking differently from himself. Another example is 
the historian Tacitus, who was full of contempt for the new 
sectaries, but blamed Nero for his cruelty in persecuting them. 
Agrippa and Tacitus were the real unbelievers. Diocletian was 
a politician ruled by the clamours of his people ; Decius and 
Aurelian were fanatics like their subjects. 

Even when the Roman Government had definitely gone over 
to Christianity, what a task it was to bring the different peoples 
into the bosom of the Church ! In Greece there was a series 
of terrible struggles, in the Universities as well as in the small 
towns and villages. The bishops had everywhere such difficulty 
in ousting the little local divinities that very often the victory 
was due less to argument and conversion than to time, patience, 
and diplomacy. The clergy were forced to make use of pious 
frauds, and their ingenuity replaced the deities of wood, meadow, 
and fountain, by saints, martyrs, and virgins. Thus the feelings 
of reverence continued without a break ; for some time they 
were directed to the wrong objects, but they at last found the 
right road. . . . But what am I saying ? Can we be so certain 
that even in France there are not to be found to this day a few 
places where the tenacity of some odd superstition still gives 
trouble to the parish priest ? In Catholic Brittany, in the 
eighteenth century, a bishop had a long struggle with a village- 
people that clung to the worship of a stone idol. In vain was the 
gross image thrown into the water ; its fanatical admirers always 
fished it out again, and the help of a company of infantry was 
needed to break it to pieces. We see from this what a long life 
paganism had — and still has. I conclude that there is no good 
reason for holding that Rome and Athens were for a single day 
without religion. 

Since then, a nation has never, either in ancient or modern 
* Acts xxvi, 24, 28, 31. 

B 17 


times, given up one faith before being duly provided with another, 
it is impossible to claim that the ruin of nations follows from 
their irreligion. 

I have now shown that fanaticism, luxury, and the corruption 
of morals have not necessarily any power of destruction, and that 
irreligion has no political reality at all ; it remains to discuss the 
influence of bad government, which is well worth a chapter to 




I know the difficulty of my present task. That I should even 

venture to touch on it will seem a kind of paradox to many of 

my readers. People are convinced, and rightly convinced, that 

the good administration of good laws has a direct and powerful 

influence on the health of a people ; and this conviction is so 

strong, that they attribute to such administration the mere fact 

that a human society goes on living at all. Here they are 


They would be right, of course, if it were true that nations 

could exist only in a state of well being ; but we know that, 

like individuals, they can often go on for a long time, carrying 

within them the seeds of some fell disease, which may suddenly 

break out in 3. virulent form. If nations invariably died of their 

sufferings, not one would survive the first years of its growth ; 

for it is precisely in those years that they show the worst 

administration, the worst laws, and the greatest disorder. But 

in this respect they are the exact opposite of the human organism. 

The greatest enemy that the latter has to fear, especially in 

infancy, is a continuous series of illnesses — we know beforehand 

that there is no resisting these ; to a society, however, such a 

series does no harm at all, and history gives us abundant proof 

that the body politic is always being cured of the longest, the 

most terrible and devastating attacks of disease, of which the 

worst forms are ill-conceived laws and an oppressive or negligent 


* The reader will understand that I am not speaking of the political 
existence of a centre of sovereignty, but of the life of a whole society, 
or the span of a whole civilization. The distinction drawn at the beginning 
of chap, ii must be applied here. 


We will first try to make clear in what a " bad government " 

It is a malady that seems to take many forms. It would be 
impossible even to enumerate them all, for they are multiplied 
to infinity by the differences in the constitutions of peoples, 
and in the place and time of their existence. But if we group 
these forms under four main headings, there are very few varieties 
that will not be included. 

A government is bad when it is set up by a foreign Power. 
Athens experienced this kind of government under the Thirty 
Tyrants ; they were driven out, and the national spirit, far from 
dying under their oppressive rule, was tempered by it to a greater 

A government is bad when it is based on conquest, pure and 
simple. In the fourteenth century practically the whole of 
France passed under the yoke of England. It emerged strongei 
than before, and entered on a career of great brilliance. China 
was overrun and conquered by hordes of Mongols ; it managed 
to expel them beyond its borders, after sapping their vitality in 
a most extraordinary way. Since that time China has fallen 
into a new servitude ; but although the Manchus have already 
enjoyed more than a century of sovereignty, they are on the eve 
of suffering the same fate as the Mongols, and have passed 
through a similar period of weakness. 

A government is especially bad when the principle on which 
it rests becomes vitiated, and ceases to operate in the healthy 
and vigorous way it did at first. This was the condition 
of the Spanish monarchy. It was based on the military spirit 
and the idea of social freedom ; towards the end of Philip IPs 
reign it forgot its origin and began to degenerate. There has 
never been a country where all theories of conduct had become 
more obsolete, where the executive was more feeble and dis- 
credited, where the organization of the church itself was so open 
to criticism. Agriculture and industry, like everything else, 
were struck down and all but buried in the morass where the 
nation was decaying. . . . But is Spain dead ? Not at all. 



The country of which so many despaired has given Europe the 
glorious example of a desperate resistance to the fortune of 
our arms ; and at the present moment it is perhaps in Spain, 
of all the modern States, that the feeling of nationality is most 

Finally, a government is bad when, by the very nature of its 
institutions, it gives colour to an antagonism between the supreme 
power and the mass of the people, or between different classes 
of society. Thus, in the Middle Ages, we see the kings of England 
and France engaged in a struggle with their great vassals, and 
the peasants flying at the throats of their overlords. In Germany, 
too, the first effects of the new freedom of thought were the 
civil wars of the Hussites, the Anabaptists, and all the other 
sectaries. A little before that, Italy was in such distress through 
the division of the supreme power, and the quarrel over the 
fragments between the Emperor, the Pope, the nobles, and the 
communes, that the masses, not knowing whom to obey, often 
ended by obeying nobody. Did this cause the ruin of the whole 
society ? Not at all. Its civilization was never more brilliant, 
its industry more productive, its influence abroad more incon- 

I can well believe that sometimes, in the midst of these storms, 
a wise and potent law-giver came, like a sunbeam, to shed the 
light of his beneficence on the peoples he ruled. The light 
remained only for a short space ; and just as its absence had 
not caused death, so its presence did not bring life. For this, 
the times of prosperity would have had to be frequent and of 
long duration. But upright princes were rare in that age, and 
are rare in all ages. Even the best of them have their detractors, 
and the happiest pictures are full of shadow. Do all historians 
alike regard the time of King William III as an era of prosperity 
for England ? Do they all admire Louis XIV, the Great, with- 
out reserve ? On the contrary ; the critics are all at their posts, 
and their arrows know where to find their mark. And yet these 
are, on the whole, the best regulated and most fruitful periods 
in the history of ourselves and our neighbours. Good govern- 



ments are so thinly sown on the soil of the ages, and even when 
they spring up, are so withered by criticism ; political science, 
the highest and most intricate of all sciences, is so incommen- 
surate with the weakness of man, that we cannot sincerely claim 
that nations perish from being ill-governed. Thank heaven 
they have the power of soon becoming accustomed to their 
sufferings, which, in their worst forms, are infinitely preferable 
to anarchy. The most superficial study of history will be enough 
to show that however bad may be the government that is drain- 
ing away the life-blood of a people, it is often better than many 
of the administrations that have gone before. 




However little the spirit of the foregoing pages may have been 
understood, no one will conclude from them that I attach no 
importance to the maladies of the social organism, and that, 
for me, bad government, fanaticism, and irreligion are mere 
unmeaning accidents. On the contrary I quite agree with the 
ordinary view, that it is a lamentable thing to see a society 
being gradually undermined by these fell diseases, and that no 
amount of care and trouble would be wasted if a remedy could 
only be found. I merely add that if these poisonous blossoms 
of disunion are not grafted on a stronger principle of destruction, 
if they are not the consequences of a hidden plague more terrible 
still, we may rest assured that their ravages will not be fatal 
and that after a time of suffering more or less drawn out, the 
society will emerge from their toils, perhaps with strength and 
youth renewed. 

The examples I have brought forward seem to me conclusive, 
though their number might be indefinitely increased. Through 
some such reasoning as this the ordinary opinions of men have 
at last come to contain an instinctive perception of the truth. 
It is being dimly seen that one ought not to have given such a 
preponderant importance to evils which were after all merely 
derivative, and that the true causes of the life and death of 
peoples should have been sought elsewhere, and been drawn 
from a deeper well. Men have begun to look at the inner con- 
stitution of a society, by itself, quite apart from all circumstances 
of health or disease. They have shown themselves ready to 
admit that no external cause could lay the hand of death on any 


society, so long as a certain destructive principle, inherent in it 
from the first, born from its womb and nourished on its entrails, 
had not reached its full maturity ; on the other hand, so soon 
as this destructive principle had come into existence, the society 
was doomed to certain death, even though it had the best of all 
possible governments — in exactly the same way as a spent horse 
will fall dead on a concrete road. 

A great step in advance was made, I admit, when the question 
was considered from this point of view, which was anyhow 
much more philosophic than the one taken up before. Bichat,* 
as we know, did not seek to discover the great mystery of exist- 
ence by studying the human subject from the outside ; the key 
to the riddle, he saw, lay within. Those who followed the same 
method, in our own subject, were travelling on the only road 
that really led to discoveries. Unfortunately, this excellent 
idea of theirs was the result of mere instinct ; its logical impli- 
cations were not carried very far, and it was shattered on the first 
difficulty. " Yes," they cried, " the cause of destruction lies hidden 
in the very vitals of the social organism ; but what is this cause ? " 
"Degeneration," was the answer ; " nations die when they are com- 
posed of elements that have degenerated." The answer was excel- 
lent, etymologically and otherwise. It only remained to define 
the meaning of " nation that has degenerated." This was the 
rock on which they foundered ; a degenerate people meant, they 
said, " A people which through bad government, misuse of wealth, 
fanaticism, or irreligion, had lost the characteristic virtues of 
its ancestors." What a fall is there ! Thus a people dies of 
its endemic diseases because it is degenerate, and is degenerate 
because it dies. This circular argument merely proves that the 
science of social anatomy is in its infancy. I quite agree that 
societies perish because they are degenerate, and for no other 
reason. This is the evil condition that makes them wholly 
unable to withstand the shock of the disasters that close in 
upon them ; and when they can no longer endure the blows of 

* The celebrated physiologist (1771-1802), and author of L'Anatomie 
generate. — Tr. 



adverse fortune, and have no power to raise their heads when 
the scourge has passed, then we have the sublime spectacle of a 
nation in agony. If it perish, it is because it has no longer the 
same vigour as it had of old in battling with the dangers of life ; 
in a word, because it is degenerate. I repeat, the term is excellent; 
but we must explain it a little better, and give it a definite 
meaning. How and why is a nation's vigour lost ? How does 
it degenerate ? These are the questions which we must try to 
answer. Up to the present, men have been content with finding 
the word, without unveiling the reality that lies behind. This 
further step I shall now attempt to take. 

The word degenerate, when applied to a people, means (as it 
ought to mean) that the people has no longer the same intrinsic 
value as it had before, because it has no longer the same blood 
in its veins, continual adulterations having gradually affected 
the quality of that blood. In other words, though the nation 
bears the name given by its founders, the name no longer 
connotes the same race ; in fact, the man of a decadent time, the 
degenerate man properly so called, is a different being, from the 
racial point of view, from the heroes of the great ages. I agree that 
he still keeps something of their essence ; but the more he degen- 
erates the more attenuated does this "something" become. 
The heterogeneous elements that henceforth prevail in him 
give him quite a different nationality — a very original one, no 
doubt, but such originality is not to be envied. He is only a 
very distant kinsman of those he still calls his ancestors. He, 
and his civilization with him, will certainly die on the day when 
the primordial race-unit is so broken up and swamped by the 
influx of foreign elements, that its effective qualities have no 
longer a sufficient freedom of action. It will not, of course, 
absolutely disappear, but it will in practice be so beaten down 
and enfeebled, that its power will be felt less and less as time 
goes on. It is at this point that all the results of degeneration 
will appear, and the process may be considered complete. 

If I manage to prove this proposition, I shall have given 
a meaning to the word "degeneration." By showing how 



the essential quality of a nation gradually alters, I shift the 
responsibility for its decadence, which thus becomes, in a way, 
less shameful, for it weighs no longer on the sons, but on the 
nephews, then on the cousins, then on collaterals more or less 
removed. And when I have shown by examples that great 
peoples, at the moment of their death, have only a very small 
and insignificant share in the blood of the founders, into whose 
inheritance they come, I shall thereby have explained clearly 
enough how it is possible for civilizations to fall — the reason 
being that they are no longer in the same hands. At the same 
time I shall be touching on a problem which is much more 
dangerous than that which I have tried to solve in the preceding 
chapters. This problem is : " Are there serious and ultimate 
differences of value between human races ; and can these differ- 
ences be estimated ? " 

I will begin at once to develop the series of arguments that 
touch the first point ; they will indirectly settle the second also. 

To put my ideas into a clearer and more easily intelligible 
form I may compare a nation to a human body, which, accord- 
ing to the physiologists, is constantly renewing all its parts ; 
the work of transformation that goes on is incessant, and after 
a certain number of years the body retains hardly any of its 
former elements. Thus, in the old man, there are no traces of 
the man of middle age, in the adult no traces of the youth, nor in 
the youth of the child ; the personal identity in all these stages 
is kept purely by the succession of inner and outer forms, each 
an imperfect copy of the last. Yet I will admit one difference 
between a nation and a human body ; in the former there is no 
question of the " forms " being preserved, for these are destroyed 
and disappear with enormous rapidity. I will take a people, 
or better, a tribe, at the moment when, yielding to a definite 
vital instinct, it provides itself with laws and begins to play a 
part in the world. By the mere fact of its wants and powers 
increasing, it inevitably finds itself in contact with other similar 
associations, and by war or peaceful measures succeeds in 
incorporating them with itself. 



Not all human families can reach this first step ; but it is a 
step that every tribe must take if it is to rank one day as a 
nation. Even if a certain number of races, themselves perhaps 
not very far advanced on the ladder of civilization, have passed 
through this stage, we cannot properly regard this as a general 

Indeed, the human species seems to have a very great diffi- 
culty in raising itself above a rudimentary type of organization ; 
the transition to a more complex state is made only by those 
groups of tribes, that are eminently gifted. I may cite, in 
support of this, the actual condition of a large number of com- 
munities spread throughout the world. These backward tribes, 
especially the Polynesian negroes, the Samoyedes and others 
in the far north, and the majority of the African races, have never 
been able to shake themselves free from their impotence ; they 
live side by side in complete independence of each other. The 
stronger massacre the weaker, the weaker try to move as far 
away as possible from the stronger. This sums up the political 
ideas of these embryo societies, which have lived on in their 
imperfect state, without possibility of improvement, as long as 
the human race itself. It may be said that these miserable 
savages are a very small part of the earth's population. Granted ; 
but we must take account of all the similar peoples who have 
lived and disappeared. Their number is incalculable, and 
certainly includes the vast majority of the pure-blooded yellow 
and black races. 

If then we are driven to admit that for a very large number 
of human beings it has been, and always will be, impossible to 
take even the first step towards civilization ; if, again, we consider 
that these peoples are scattered over the whole face of the earth 
under the most varying conditions of climate and environment, 
that they live indifferently in the tropics, in the temperate zones, 
and in the Arctic circle, by sea, lake, and river, in the depths 
of the forest, in the grassy plains, in the arid deserts, we must 
conclude that a part of mankind, is in its own nature stricken 
with a paralysis, which makes it for ever unable to take even 



the first step towards civilization, since it cannot overcome 
the natural repugnance, felt by men and animals alike, to a 
crossing of blood. 

Leaving these tribes, that are incapable of civilization, on 
one side, we come, in our journey upwards, to those which 
understand that if they wish to increase their power and pros- 
perity, they are absolutely compelled, either by war or 
peaceful measures, to draw their neighbours within their sphere 
of influence. War is undoubtedly the simpler way of doing 
this. Accordingly, they go to war. But when the campaign 
is finished, and the craving for destruction is satisfied, some 
prisoners are left over ; these prisoners become slaves, and as 
slaves, work for their masters. We have class distinctions at 
once, and an industrial system : the tribe has become a little 
people. This is a higher rung on the ladder of civilization, and 
is not necessarily passed by all the tribes which have been able 
to reach it ; many remain at this stage in cheerful stagnation. 

But there are others, more imaginative and energetic, whose 
ideas soar beyond mere brigandage. They manage to conquer 
a great territory, and assume rights of ownership not only over 
the inhabitants, but also over their land. From this moment 
a real nation has been formed. The two races often continue 
for a time to live side by side without mingling ; and yet, as 
they become indispensable to each other, as a community of 
work and interest is gradually built up, as the pride and rancour 
of conquest begin to ebb away, as those below naturally tend 
to rise to the level of their masters, while the masters have a 
thousand reasons for allowing, or even for promoting, such a 
tendency, the mixture of blood finally takes place, the two races 
cease to be associated with distinct tribes, and become more and 
more fused into a single whole. 

The spirit of isolation is, however, so innate in the human race, 
that even those who have reached this advanced stage of crossing 
refuse in many cases to take a step, further. There are some 
peoples who are, as we know positively, of mixed origin, but who 
keep their feeling for the clan to an extraordinary degree. The 



Arabs, for example, do more than merely spring from different 
branches of the Semitic stock ; they belong at one and the same 
time to the so-called families of Shem and Ham, not to speak of 
a vast number of local strains that are intermingled with these. 
Nevertheless, their attachment to the tribe, as a separate unit, 
is one of the most striking features of their national character 
and their political history. In fact, it has been thought possible 
to attribute their expulsion from Spain not only to the actual 
breaking up of their power there, but also, to a large extent, 
to their being continually divided into smaller and mutually 
antagonistic groups, in the struggles for promotion among the 
Arab families at the petty courts of Valentia, Toledo, Cordova, 
and Grenada.* 

We may say the same about the majority of such peoples. 
Further, where the tribal separation has broken down, a national 
feeling takes its place, and acts with a similar vigour, which a 
community of religion is not enough to destroy. This is the 
case among the Arabs and the Turks, the Persians and the Jews, 
the Parsees and the Hindus, the Nestorians of Syria and the Kurds. 
We find it also in European Turkey, and can trace its course in 
Hungary, among the Magyars, the Saxons, the Wallachians, 
and the Croats. I know, from what I have seen with my own 
eyes, that in certain parts of France, the country where races are 
mingled more than perhaps anywhere else, there are little com- 
munities to be found to this day, who feel a repugnance to 
marrying outside their own village. 

I think I am right in concluding from these examples, which 
cover all countries and ages, including our own, that the human 
race in all its branches has a secret repulsion from the crossing 
of blood, a repulsion which in many of the branches is in- 
vincible, and in others is only conquered to a slight extent. 

* This attachment of the Arab tribes to their racial unity shows itself 
sometimes in a very curious manner. A traveller (M. Fulgence Fresnel, 
I think) says that at Djiddah, where morals are very lax, the same Bedouin 
girl who will sell her favours for the smallest piece of money would think 
herself dishonoured if she contracted a legal marriage with the Turk or 
European to whom she contemptuously lends herself. 



Even those who most completely shake off the yoke of this idea 
cannot get rid of the few last traces of it ; yet such peoples are 
the only members of our species who can be civilized at all. 

Thus mankind lives in obedience to two laws, one of repulsion, 
the other of attraction ; these act with different force on different 
peoples. The first is fully respected only by those races which 
can never raise themselves above the elementary completeness 
of the tribal life, while the power of the second, on the contrary, 
is the more absolute, as the racial units on which it is exercised 
are more capable of development. 

Here especially I must be concrete. I have just taken the 
example of a people in embryo, whose state is like that of a single 
family. I have given them the qualities which will allow them 
to pass into the state of a nation. Well, suppose they have 
become a nation. History does not tell me what the elements 
were that constituted the original group ; all I know is that 
these elements fitted it for the transformation which I have 
made it undergo. Now that it has grown, it has only two 
possibilities. One or other of two destinies is inevitable. It 
will either conquer or be conquered. 

I will give it the better part, and assume that it will conquer. 
It will at the same time rule, administer, and civilize. It will 
not go through its provinces, sowing a useless harvest of fire and 
massacre. Monuments, customs, and institutions will be alike 
sacred. It will change what it can usefully modify, and replace 
it by something better. Weakness in its hands will become 
strength. It will behave in such a way that, in the words of 
Scripture, it will be magnified in the sight of men. 

I do not know if the same thought has already struck the 
reader ; but in the picture which I am presenting — and which in 
certain features is that of the Hindus, the Egyptians, the Persians 
and the Macedonians — two facts appear to me to stand out. 
The first is that a nation, which itself lacks vigour and power, is 
suddenly called upon to share a new and a better destiny — that 
of the strong masters into whose hands it has fallen ; this was the 
case with the Anglo-Saxons, when they had been subdued by the 



Normans. The second fact is that a picked race of men, a 
sovereign people, with the usual strong propensities of such a 
people to cross its blood with another's, finds itself henceforth 
in close contact with a race whose inferiority is shown, not only 
by defeat, but also by the lack of the attributes that may be 
seen in the conquerors. From the very day when the conquest 
is accomplished and the fusion begins, there appears a noticeable 
change of quality in the blood of the masters. If there were no 
other modifying influence at work, then — at the end of a number 
of years, which would vary according to the number of peoples 
that composed the original stock — we should be confronted with 
a new race, less powerful certainly than the better of its two 
ancestors, but still of considerable strength. It would have 
developed special qualities resulting from the actual mixture, 
and unknown to the communities from which it sprang. But 
the case is not generally so simple as this, and the intermingling 
of blood is not confined for long to the two constituent peoples; 

The empire I have just been imagining is a powerful one . 
and its power is used to control its neighbours. I assume that 
there will be new conquests ; and, every time, a current of fresh 
blood will be mingled with the main stream. Henceforth, as the 
nation grows, whether by war or treaty, its racial character 
changes more and more. It is rich, commercial, and civilized. 
The needs and the pleasures of other peoples find ample satis- 
faction in its capitals, its great towns, and its ports ; while its 
myriad attractions cause many foreigners to make it their home. 
After a short time, we might truly say that a distinction of castes 
takes the place of the original distinction of races. 

I am willing to grant that the people of whom I am speaking 
is strengthened in its exclusive notions by the most formal 
commands of religion, and that some dreadful penalty lurks in 
the background, to awe the disobedient. But since the people 
is civilized, its character is soft and tolerant, even to the con- 
tempt of its faith. Its oracles will speak in vain ; there will be 
births outside the caste-limits. Every day new distinctions will 
have to be drawn, new classifications invented ; the number of 



social grades will be increased, and it will be almost impossible 
to know where one is, amid the infinite variety of the subdivisions, 
that change from province to province, from canton to canton, 
from village to village. In fact, the condition will be that of the 
Hindu countries. It is only, however, the Brahman who has 
shown himself so tenacious of his ideas of separation ; the foreign 
peoples he civilized have never fastened these cramping fetters on 
their shoulders, or any rate have long since shaken them off. In 
all the States that have made any advance in intellectual culture, 
the process has not been checked for a single moment by those 
desperate shifts to which the law-givers of the Aryavarta were 
put, in their desire to reconcile the prescriptions of the Code of 
Manu with the irresistible march of events. In every other place 
where there were really any castes at all, they ceased to exist at 
the moment when the chance of making a fortune, and of be- 
coming famous by useful discoveries or social talents, became 
open to the whole world, without distinction of origin. But also, 
from that same day, the nation that was originally the active, 
conquering, and civilizing power began to disappear ; its blood 
became merged in that of all the tributaries which it had attracted 
to its own stream. 

Generally the dominating peoples begin by being far fewer in 
number than those they conquer ; while, on the other hand, 
certain races that form the basis of the population in immense 
districts are extremely prolific — the Celts, for example, and the 
Slavs. This is yet another reason for the rapid disappearance 
of the conquering races. Again, their greater activity and the 
more personal part they take in the affairs of the State make them 
the chief mark for attack after a disastrous battle, a proscription, 
or a revolution. Thus, while by their very genius for civilization 
they collect round them the different elements in which they are 
to be absorbed, they are the victims, first of their original small- 
ness of number, and then of a host of secondary causes which 
combine together for their destruction. 

It is fairly obvious that the time when the disappearance takes 
place will vary considerably, according to circumstances. Yet 



it does finally come to pass, and is everywhere quite complete, 
long before the end of the civilization which the victorious race 
is supposed to be animating. A people may often go on living 
and working, and even growing in power, after the active, 
generating force of its life and glory has ceased to exist. Does 
this contradict what I have said above ? Not at all ; for while 
the blood of the civilizing race is gradually drained away by 
being parcelled out among the peoples that are conquered or 
annexed, the impulse originally given to these peoples still 
persists. The institutions which the dead master had invented, 
the laws he had prescribed, the customs he had initiated — all 
these live after him. No doubt the customs, laws, and institu- 
tions have quite forgotten the spirit that informed their youth ; 
they survive in dishonoured old age, every day more sapless and 
rotten. But so long as even their shadows remain, the building 
stands, the body seems to have a soul, the pale ghost walks. 
When the original impulse has worked itself out, the last word 
has been said. Nothing remains ; the civilization is dead. 

I think I now have all the data necessary for grappling with 
the problem of the life and death of nations ; and I can say 
positively that a people will never die, if it remains eternally 
composed of the same national elements. If the empire of Darius 
had, at the battle of Arbela, been able to fill its ranks with 
Persians, that is to say with real Aryans ; if the Romans of the 
later Empire had had a Senate and an army of the same stock as 
that which existed at the time of the Fabii, their dominion would 
never have come to an end. So long as they kept the same purity 
of blood, the Persians and Romans would have lived and reigned. 
In the long run, it might be said, a conqueror, more irresistible 
than they, would have appeared on the scene ; and they would 
have fallen under a well-directed attack, or a long siege, or simply 
by the fortune of a single battle. Yes, a State might be over- 
thrown in this way, but not a civilization or a social organism. 
Invasion and defeat are but the dark clouds that for a time blot 
out the day, and then pass over. Many examples might be 
brought forward in proof of this. 

c 33 


In modern times the Chinese have been twice conquered. 
They have always forced their conquerors to become assimilated 
to them, and to respect their customs ; they gave much, and took 
hardly anything in return. They drove out the first invaders, 
and in time will do the same with the second. 

The English are the masters of India, and yet their moral hold 
over their subjects is almost non-existent. They are themselves 
influenced in many ways by the local civilization, and cannot 
succeed in stamping their ideas on a people that fears its con- 
querors, but is only physically dominated by them. It keeps its 
soul erect, and its thoughts apart from theirs. The Hindu race 
has become a stranger to the race that governs it to-day, and its 
civilization does not obey the law that gives the battle to the 
strong. External forms, kingdoms, and empires have changed, 
and will change again ; but the foundations on which they rest, 
and from which they spring, do not necessarily change with them. 
Though Hyderabad, Lahore, and Delhi are no longer capital 
cities, Hindu society none the less persists. A moment will come, 
in one way or another, when India will again live publicly, as 
she already does privately, under her own laws ; and, by the 
help either of the races actually existing or of a hybrid proceeding 
from them, will assume again, in the full sense of the word, a 
political personality. 

The hazard of war cannot destroy the life of a people. At most, 
it suspends its animation for a time, and in some ways shears it 
of its outward pomp. So long as the blood and institutions of 
a nation keep to a sufficient degree the impress of the original 
race, that nation exists. Whether, as in the case of the Chinese, 
its conqueror has, in a purely material sense, greater energy than 
itself ; whether, like the Hindu, it is matched, in a long and 
arduous trial of patience, against a nation, such as the English, 
in all points its superior ; in either case the thought of its certain 
destiny should bring consolation — one day it will be free. But 
if, like the Greeks, and the Romans of the later Empire, the people 
has been absolutely drained of its original blood, and the qualities 
conferred by the blood, then the day of its defeat will be the day 



of its death. It has used up the time that heaven granted at its 
birth, for it has completely changed its race, and with its race 
its nature. It is therefore degenerate. 

In view of the preceding paragraph, we may regard as settled 
the vexed question as to what would have happened if the 
Carthaginians, instead of falling before the fortunes of Rome, 
had become masters of Italy. Inasmuch as they belonged to the 
Phoenician stock, a stock inferior in the citizen-virtues to the 
races that produced the soldiers of Scipio, a different issue of the 
battle of Zama could not have made any change in their destiny. 
If they had been lucky on one day, the next would have seen 
their luck recoil on their "heads ; or they might have been merged 
in the Italian race by victory, as they were by defeat. In any 
case the final result would have been exactly the same. The 
destiny of civilizations is not a matter of chance ; it does not 
depend on the toss of a coin. It is only men who are killed by 
the sword ; and when the most redoubtable, warlike, and success- 
ful nations have nothing but valour in their hearts, military 
science in their heads, and the laurels of victory in their hands, 
without any thought that rises above mere conquest, they 
always end merely by learning, and learning badly, from those 
they have conquered, how to live in time of peace. The annals 
of the Celts and the Nomadic hordes of Asia tell no other tale 
than this. 

I have now given a meaning to the word degeneration ; and 
so have been able to attack the problem of a nation's vitality. 
I must next proceed to prove what for the sake of clearness 
I have had to put forward as a mere hypothesis ; namely, that 
there are real differences in the relative value of human races. 
The consequences of proving this will be considerable, and cover 
a wide field. But first I must lay a foundation of fact and 
argument capable of holding up such a vast building ; and the 
foundation cannot be too complete. The question with which 
I have just been dealing was only the gateway of the temple, 




The idea of an original, clear-cut, and permanent inequality 
among the different races is one of the oldest and most widely 
held opinions in the world. We need not be surprised at this, 
when we consider the isolation of primitive tribes and com- 
munities, and how in the early ages they all used to " retire 
into their shell " ; a great number have never left this stage. 
Except in quite modern times, this idea has been the basis of 
nearly all theories of government. Every people, great or small, 
has begun by making inequality its chief political motto. This 
is the origin of all systems of caste, of nobility, and of aristocracy, 
in so far as the last is founded on the right of birth. The law of 
primogeniture, which assumes the pre-eminence of the first born 
and his descendants, is merely a corollary of the same principle. 
With it go the repulsion felt for the foreigner and the superiority 
which every nation claims for itself with regard to its neighbours. 
As soon as the isolated groups have begun to intermingle and to 
become one people, they grow great and civilized, and look at 
each other in a more favourable light, as one finds the other 
useful. Then, and only then, do we see the absolute principle 
of the inequality, and hence the mutual hostility, of races ques- 
tioned and undermined. Finally, when the majority of the 
citizens have mixed blood flowing in their veins, they erect into 
a universal and absolute truth what is only true for themselves, 
and feel it to be their duty to assert that all men are equal. 
They are also moved by praiseworthy dislike jo oppression, a 
legitimate hatred towards the abuse of power ; to all thinking 
men these cast an ugly shadow on the memory of races which 
have once been dominant, and which have never failed (for 



such is the way of the world) to justify to some extent many 
of the charges that have been brought against them. From 
mere declamation against tyrann}', men go on to deny the 
natural causes of the superiority against which they are de- 
claiming. The tyrant's power is, to them, not only misused, 
but usurped. They refuse, quite wrongly, to admit that certain 
qualities are by a fatal necessity the exclusive inheritance 
of such and such a stock. In fact, the more heterogeneous the 
elements of which a people is composed, the more complacently 
does it assert that the most different powers are, or can be, 
possessed in the same measure by every fraction of the human 
race, without exception. This theory is barely applicable to 
these hybrid philosophers themselves ; but they extend it to 
cover all the generations which were, are, and ever shall be on 
the earth. They end one day by summing up their views in the 
words which, like the bag of /Eolus, contain so many storms — 
" All men are brothers." * 

This is the political axiom. Would you like to hear it in its 
scientific form ? " All men," say the defenders of human 
equality, " are furnished with similar intellectual powers, of the 
same nature, of the same value, of the same compass." These 
are not perhaps their exact words, but they certainly give the 
right meaning. So the brain of the Huron Indian contains in an 
undeveloped form an intellect which is absolutely the same as 
that of the Englishman or the Frenchman ! Why then, in the 
course of the ages, has he not invented printing or steam power ? 
I should be quite justified in asking our Huron why, if he is equal 
to our European peoples, his tribe has never produced a Caesar 
or a Charlemagne among its warriors, and why his bards and 
sorcerers have, in some inexplicable way, neglected to become 

* The man 

Of virtuous soul commands not, nor obeys ; 
Power, like a desolating pestilence, 
Pollutes whate'er it touches ; and obedience, 
Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth, 
Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame 
A mechanized automaton. 

Shelley, " Queen Mab." 



Homers and Galens. The difficulty is usually met by the 
blessed phrase, " the predominating influence of environment." 
According to this doctrine, an island will not see the same 
miracles of civilization as a continent, the same people will be 
different in the north from what it is in the south, forests will not 
allow of developments which are favoured by open country. 
What else ? the humidity of a marsh, I suppose, will produce a 
civilization which would inevitably have been stifled by the 
dryness of the Sahara ! However ingenious these little hypo- 
theses may be, the testimony of fact is against them. In spite of 
wind and rain, cold and heat, sterility and fruitfulness, the world 
has seen barbarism and civilization flourishing everywhere, one 
after the other, on the same soil. The brutish fellah is tanned 
by the same sun as scorched the powerful priest of Memphis ; the 
learned professor of Berlin lectures under the same inclement sky 
that once beheld the wretched existence of the Finnish savage. 

The curious point is that the theory of equality, which is held 
by the majority of men and so has permeated our customs and 
institutions, has not been powerful enough to overthrow the 
evidence against it ; and those who are most convinced of its 
truth pay homage every day to its opposite. No one at any 
time refuses to admit that there are great differences between 
nations, and the ordinary speech of men, with a naive incon- 
sistency, confesses the fact. In this it is merely imitating the 
practice of other ages which were not less convinced than we are 
— and for the same reason — of the absolute equality of races. 

While clinging to the liberal dogma of human brotherhood, 
every nation has always managed to add to the names of others 
certain qualifications and epithets that suggest their unlikeness 
from itself. The Roman of Italy called the Graeco-Roman a 
GrcBCidus, or " little Greek," and gave him the monopoly of 
cowardice and empty chatter. He ridiculed the Carthaginian 
settler, and pretended to be able to pick him out among a thou- 
sand for his litigious character and his want of faith. The 
Alexandrians were held to be witty, insolent, and seditious. 
In the Middle Ages, the Anglo-Norman kings accused their 



French subjects of lightness and inconstancy. To-day, every one 
talks of the " national characteristics " of the German, the 
Spaniard, the Englishman, and the Russian. I am not asking 
whether the judgments are true or not. My sole point is that 
they exist, and are adopted in ordinary speech. Thus, if on the 
one hand human societies are called equal, and on the other 
we find some of them frivolous, others serious ; some avaricious, 
others thriftless ; some passionately fond of fighting, others 
careful of their lives and energies ; — it stands to reason that 
these differing nations must have destinies which are also abso- 
lutely different, and, in a word, unequal. The stronger will play 
the parts of kings and rulers in the tragedy of the world. The/ 
weaker will be content with a more humble position. 

I do not think that the usual idea of a national character for 
each people has yet been reconciled with the belief, which is just 
as widely held, that all peoples are equal. Yet the contradiction 
is striking and flagrant, and all the more serious because the most 
ardent democrats are the first to claim superiority for the Anglo- 
Saxons of North America over all the nations of the same conti- 
nent. It is true that they ascribe the high position of their 
favourites merely to their political constitution. But, so far as 
I know, they do not deny that the countrymen of Penn and 
Washington, are, as a nation, peculiarly prone to set up liberal 
institutions in all their places of settlement, and, what is more, 
to keep them going. Is not this very tenacity a wonderful 
characteristic of this branch of the human race, and the more 
precious because most of the societies which have existed, or still 
exist, in the world seem to be without it ? 

I do not flatter myself that I shall be able to enjoy this in- 
consistency without opposition. The friends of equality will no 
doubt talk very loudly, at this point, about " the power of 
customs and institutions." They will tell me once more how 
powerfully the health and growth of a nation are influenced by 
" the essential quality of a government, taken by itself," or " the 
fact of despotism or liberty." But it is just at this point that I 
too shall oppose their arguments. 



Political institutions have only two possible sources. They 
either come directly from the nation which has to live under them, 
or they are invented by a powerful people and imposed on all 
the States that fall within its sphere of influence. 

There is no difficulty in the first hypothesis. A people obviously 
adapts its institutions to its wants and instincts ; and will 
beware of laying down any rule which may thwart the one or the 
other. If, by some lack of skill or care, such a rule is laid down, 
the consequent feeling of discomfort leads the people to amend 
its laws, and put them into more perfect harmony with their 
express objects. In every autonomous State, the laws, we may 
say, always emanate from the people ; not generally because it 
has a direct power of making them, but because, in order to be 
good laws, they must be based upon the people's point of view, 
and be such as it might have thought out for itself, if it had been 
better informed. If some wise lawgiver seems, at first sight, 
the sole source of some piece of legislation, a nearer view will 
show that his very wisdom has led him merely to give out the 
oracles that have been dictated by his nation. If he is a judicious 
man, like Lycurgus, he will prescribe nothing that the Dorian 
of Sparta could not accept. If he is a mere doctrinaire, like 
Draco, he will draw up a code that will soon be amended or 
repealed by the Ionian of Athens, who, like all the children of 
Adam, is incapable of living for long under laws that are foreign 
to the natural tendencies of his real self. The entrance of a 
man of genius into this great business of law-making is merely 
a special manifestation of the enlightened will of the people ; 
if the laws simply fulfilled the fantastic dreams of one individual, 
they could not rule any people for long. We cannot admit that 
the institutions thus invented and moulded by a race of men 
make that race what it is. They are effects, not causes. Their 
influence is, of course, very great ; they preserve the special 
genius of the nation, they mark out the road on which it is to 
travel, the end at which it must aim. To a certain extent, they 
are the hothouse where its instincts develop, the armoury that 
furnishes its best weapons for action. But they do not create 



their creator ; and though they may be a powerful element in 
his success by helping on the growth of his innate qualities, 
they will fail miserably whenever they attempt to alter these, 
or to extend them beyond their natural limits. In a word, they 
cannot achieve the impossible. 

Ill-fitting institutions, however, together with their conse- 
quences, have played a great part in the world. When Charles I, 
by the evil counsels of the Earl of Strafford, wished to force 
absolute monarchy on the English, the King and his minister 
were walking on the blood-stained morass of political theory. 
When the Calvinists dreamed of bringing the French under a 
government that was at once aristocratic and republican, they 
were just as far away from the right road. 

When the Regent * tried to join hands with the nobles who 
were conquered in 1652, and to carry on the government by 
intrigue, as the co-adjutor and his friends had desired.f her 
efforts pleased nobody, and offended equally the nobility, the 
clergy, the Parliament, and the Third Estate. Only a few tax- 
farmers were pleased. But when Ferdinand the Catholic pro- 
mulgated against the Moors of Spain his terrible, though necessary, 
measures of destruction ; when Napoleon re-established religion 
in France, flattered the military spirit, and organized his power 
in such a way as to protect his subjects while coercing them, 
both these sovereigns, having studied and understood the special 
character of their people, were building their house upon a rock. 
In fact, bad institutions are those which, however well they look 
on paper, are not in harmony with the national qualities or 
caprices, and so do not suit a particular State, though they 
might be very successful in the neighbouring country. They would 
bring only anarchy and disorder, even if they were taken from the 

* Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV. — Tr. 

f The Comte de Saint-Priest, in an excellent article in the Revue des 
Deux Mondes, has rightly shown that the party crushed by Cardinal 
Richelieu had nothing in common with feudalism or the great aristocratic 
methods of government. Montmorency, Cinq-Mars, and Marillac tried 
to overthrow the State merely in order to obtain favour and office for 
themselves. The great Cardinal was quite innocent of the " murder of 
the French nobility," with which he has been so often reproached. 



statute-book of the angels. On the contrary, other institutions 
are good for the opposite reason, though they might be con- 
demned, from a particular point of view or even absolutely, by 
the political philosopher or the moralist. The Spartans were 
small in number, of high courage, ambitious, and violent. Ill- 
fitting laws might have turned them into a mere set of petti- 
fogging knaves ; Lycurgus made them a nation of heroic 

There is no doubt about it. As the people is born before the 
laws, the laws take after the people ; and receive from it the 
stamp which they are afterwards to impress in their turn. The 
changes made in institutions by the lapse of time are a great 
proof of what I say. 

I have already mentioned that as nations become greater, 
more powerful, and more civilized, their blood loses its purity 
and their instincts are gradually altered. As a result, it be- 
comes impossible for them to live happily under the laws that 
suited their ancestors. New generations have new customs and 
tendencies, and profound changes in the institutions are not slow 
to follow. These are more frequent and far-reaching in pro- 
portion as the race itself is changed ; while they are rarer, and 
more gradual, so long as the people is more nearly akin to the 
first founders of the State. In England, where modifications of 
the stock have been slower and, up to now, less varied than in 
any other European country, we still see the institutions of the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries forming the base of the social 
structure. We find there, almost in its first vigour, the communal 
organization of the Plantagenets and the Tudors, the same 
method of giving the nobility a share in the government, the 
same gradations of rank in this nobility, the same respect for 
old families tempered with the same love of low-born merit. 
Since James I, however, and especially since the Union under 
Queen Anne, the English blood has been more and more prone to 
mingle with that of the Scotch and Irish, while other nations 
have also helped, by imperceptible degrees, to modify its purity. 
The result is that innovations have been more frequent in our 



time than ever before, though they have always remained fairly 
faithful to the spirit of the original constitution. 

In France, intermixture of race has been far more common 
and varied. In some cases, by a sudden turn of the wheel, power 
has even passed from one race to another. Further, on the social 
side, there have been complete changes rather than modifications, 
and these were more or less far-reaching, as the groups that 
successively held the chief power were more or less different. 
While the north of France was the preponderating element in 
national politics, feudalism — or rather a degenerate parody of 
feudalism — maintained itself with fair success ; and the municipal 
spirit followed its fortunes. After the expulsion of the English, 
in the fifteenth century, and the restoration of national inde- 
pendence under Charles VII, the central provinces, which had 
taken the chief part in this revolution and were far less Germanic 
in race than the districts beyond the Loire, naturally saw their 
Gallo-Roman blood predominant in the camp and the council- 
chamber. They combined the taste for military life and foreign 
conquest — the heritage of the Celtic race — with the love of 
authority that was innate in their Roman blood ; and they 
turned the current of national feeling in this direction. During 
the sixteenth century they largely prepared the ground on which, 
in 1599, the Aquitanian supporters of Henry IV, less Celtic 
though still more Roman than themselves, laid the foundation 
stone of another and greater edifice of absolute power. When 
Paris, whose population is certainly a museum of the most 
varied ethnological specimens, had finally gained dominion 
over the rest of France owing to the centralizing policy 
favoured by the Southern character, it had no longer any 
reason to love, respect, or understand any particular tendency 
or tradition. This great capital, this Tower of Babel, broke 
with the past — the past of Flanders, Poitou, and Languedoc 
— and dragged the whole of France into ceaseless experiments 
with doctrines that were quite out of harmony with its ancient 

We cannot therefore admit that institutions make peoples 



what they are in cases where the peoples themselves have 
invented the institutions. But may we say the same of the 
second hypothesis, which deals with cases where a nation receives 
its code from the hands of foreigners powerful enough to enforce 
their will, whether the people like it or not ? 

There are a few cases of such attempts ; but I confess I cannot 
find any which have been carried out on a great scale by govern- 
ments of real political genius in ancient or modern times. Their 
wisdom has never been used to change the actual foundations 
of any great national system. The Romans were too clever to 
try such dangerous experiments. Alexander the Great had never 
done so ; and the successors of Augustus, like the conqueror of 
Darius, were content to rule over a vast mosaic of nations, all 
of which clung to their own customs, habits, laws, and methods 
of government. So long as they and their fellow-subjects re- 
mained racially the same, they were controlled by their rulers 
only in matters of taxation and military defence. 

There is, however, one point that must not be passed over. 
Many of the peoples subdued by the Romans had certain features 
in their codes so outrageous that their existence could not be 
tolerated by Roman sentiment ; for example, the human sacrifices 
of the Druids, which were visited with the severest penalties. 
Well, the Romans, for all their power, never succeeded in com- 
pletely stamping out these barbarous rites. In Narbonese Gaul 
the victory was easy, as the native population had been almost 
entirely replaced by Roman colonists. But in the centre, where 
the tribes were wilder, the resistance was more obstinate ; and 
in the Breton Peninsula, where settlers from England in the 
fourth century brought back the ancient customs with the 
ancient blood, the people continued, from mere feelings of 
patriotism and love of tradition, to cut men's throats on their 
altars as often as they dared. The strictest supervision did 
not succeed in taking the sacred knife and torch out of their 
hands. Every revolt began by restoring this terrible feature 
of the national cult ; and Christianity, still panting with rage 
after its victory over an immoral polytheism, hurled itself with 



shuddering horror against the still more hideous superstitions of 
the Armorici. It destroyed them only after a long struggle ; 
for as late as the seventeenth century shipwrecked sailors were 
massacred and wrecks plundered in all the parishes on the sea- 
board where the Cymric blood had kept its purity. These 
barbarous customs were in accordance with the irresistible in- 
stincts of a race which had not yet become sufficiently mixed, 
and so had seen no reason to change its ways. 

It is, however, in modern times especially that we find examples 
of institutions imposed by a conqueror and not accepted by his 
subjects. Intolerance is one of the chief notes of European 
civilization. Conscious of its own power and greatness, it finds 
itself confronted either by different civilizations or by peoples 
in a state of barbarism. It treats both kinds with equal con- 
tempt ; and as it sees obstacles to its own progress in everything 
that is different from itself, it is apt to demand a complete change 
in its subjects' point of view. The Spaniards, however, the 
English, the Dutch, and even the French, did not venture to push 
their innovating tendencies too far, when the conquered peoples 
were at all considerable in number. In this they copied the 
moderation that was forced on the conquerors of antiquity. 
The East, and North and West Africa, show clear proof that the 
most enlightened nations cannot set up institutions unsuited 
to the character of their subjects. I have already mentioned 
that British India lives its ancient life, under its own immemorial 
laws. The Javanese have lost all political independence, but are 
very far from accepting any institutions like those of the Nether- 
lands. They continue to live bound as they lived free ; and 
since the sixteenth century, when Europe first turned her face 
towards the East, we cannot find the least trace of any moral 
influence exerted by her, even in the case of the peoples she has 
most completely conquered. 

Not all these, however, have been so numerous as to force 
self-control on their European masters. In some cases the 
persuasive tongue has been backed by the stern argument of the 
sword. The order has gone forth to abolish existing customs, 



and put in their place others which the masters knew to be good 
and useful. Has the attempt ever succeeded ? 

America provides us with the richest field for gathering answers 
to this question. In the South, the Spaniards reigned without 
check, and to what end ? They uprooted the ancient empires, 
but brought no light. They founded no race like themselves. 

In the North the methods were different, but the results just 
as negative. In fact, they have been still more unfruitful, still 
more disastrous from the point of view of humanity. The 
Spanish Indians, are, at any rate, extremely prolific,* and 
have even transformed the blood of their conquerors, who have 
now dropped to their level. But the Redskins of the United States 
have withered at the touch of the Anglo-Saxon energy. The 
few who remain are growing less every day ; and those few are as 
uncivilized, and as incapable of civilization, as their forefathers. 
In Oceania, the facts point to the same conclusions ; the 
natives are dying out everywhere. We sometimes manage to 
take away their arms, and prevent them from doing harm ; 
but we do not change their nature. Wherever the European 
rules, they drink brandy instead of eating each other. This is 
the only new custom which our active minds have been quite 
successful in imposing ; it does not mark a great step in advance. 
There are in the world two Governments formed on European 
models by peoples different from us in race ; one in the Sandwich 
Islands, the other at San Domingo. A short sketch of these two 
Governments will be enough to show the impotence of all at- 
tempts to set up institutions which are not suggested by the 
national character. 

In the Sandwich Islands the representative system is to be 
seen in all its majesty. There is a House of Lords, a House of 
Commons, an executive Ministry, a reigning King ; nothing is 
wanting. But all this is mere ornament. The real motive 
power that keeps the machine going is a body of Protestant 
missionaries. Without them, King, Lords, and Commons would 

* A. von Humboldt, Ex amen critique de I'histoire de la gSographie du 
nouveau continent, vol. ii, pp. 129-30. 



not know which way to turn, and would soon cease to turn 
at all. To the missionaries alone belongs the credit of furnish- 
ing the ideas, of putting them into a palatable form, and 
imposing them on the people ; they do this either by the 
influence they exert on their neophytes, or, in the last resort, by 
threats. Even so, I rather think that if the missionaries had 
nothing but King and Parliament to work with, they might 
struggle for a time with the stupidity of their scholars, but would 
be forced in the end to take themselves a large and prominent 
part in the management of affairs. This would show their hand 
too obviously ; and so they avoid it by appointing a ministry 
that consists simply of men of European race. The whole 
business is thus a matter of agreement between the Protestant 
mission and its nominees ; the rest is merely for show. 

As to the King, Kamehameha III, he appears to be a prince 
of considerable parts. He has given up tattooing his face, 
and although he has not yet converted all the courtiers to his 
views, he already experiences the well-earned satisfaction of 
seeing nothing on their faces and cheeks but chaste designs, 
traced in thin outline. The bulk of the nation, the landed 
nobility and the townspeople, cling, in this and other respects, 
to their old ideas. The European population of the Sandwich 
Islands is, however, swollen every day by new arrivals. There 
are many reasons for this. The short distance separating the 
Hawaiian Kingdom from California makes it a very interesting 
focus for the clear-sighted energy of the white race. Deserters 
from the whaling vessels or mutinous sailors are not the only 
colonists ; merchants, speculators, adventurers of all kinds, 
flock to the islands, build houses, and settle down. The native 
race is gradually tending to mix with the invaders and disappear. 
I am not sure that the present representative and independent 
system of administration will not soon give place to an ordinary 
government of delegates, controlled by some great power. But 
of this I am certain, that the institutions that are brought in will 
end by establishing themselves firmly, and the first day of their 
triumph will necessarily be the last for the natives, 



At San Domingo the independence is complete. There are no 
missionaries to exert a veiled and absolute power, no foreign 
ministry to carry out European ideas ; everything is left to the 
inspiration of the people itself. Its Spanish part consists of 
mulattoes, of whom I need say nothing. They seem to imitate, 
well or badly, all that is most easily grasped in our civilization. 
They tend, like all hybrids, to identify themselves with the more 
creditable of the races to which they belong. Thus they are 
capable, to a certain extent, of reproducing our customs. It 
is not among them that we must study the question in its essence. 
Let us cross the mountains that separate the Republic of San 
Domingo from the State of Hayti. 

We find a society of which the institutions are not only parallel 
to our own, but are derived from the latest pronouncements of 
our political wisdom. All that the most enlightened liberalism 
has proclaimed for the last sixty years in the deliberative as- 
semblies of Europe, all that has been written by the most en- 
thusiastic champions of man's dignity and independence, all the 
declarations of rights and principles — these have all found their 
echo on the banks of the Artibonite. Nothing African has 
remained in the statute law. All memories of the land of Ham 
have been officially expunged from men's minds. The State 
language has never shown a trace of African influence. The 
institutions, as I said before, are completely European. Let us 
consider how they harmonize with the manners of the people. 

We are in a different world at once. The manners are as de- 
praved, brutal, and savage as in Dahomey or among the Fellatahs.* 
There is the same barbaric love of finery coupled with the same 
indifference to form. Beauty consists in colour, and so long as 
a garment is of flaming red and edged with tinsel, the owner does 
not trouble about its being largely in holes. The question 
of cleanliness never enters anyone's head. If you wish to ap- 
proach a high official in this country, you find yourself being 
introduced to a gigantic negro lying on his back, on a wooden 
bench. His head is enveloped in a torn and dirty handkerchief, 

* See the articles of Gustave d'Alaux in the Revue des deux Mondes. 

4 s 


surmounted by a cocked hat, all over gold lace. An immense 
sword hangs from his shapeless body. His embroidered coat 
lacks the final perfection of a waistcoat. Our general's feet are 
cased in carpet slippers. Do you wish to question him, to 
penetrate his mind, and learn the nature of the ideas he is re- 
volving there ? You will find him as uncultured as a savage, 
and his bestial self-satisfaction is only equalled by his profound 
and incurable laziness. If he deigns to open his mouth, he will 
roll you out all the commonplaces which the newspapers have 
been inflicting on us for the last half-century. The barbarian 
knows them all by heart. He has other interests, of course, and 
very different interests ; but no other ideas. He speaks like 
Baron Holbach, argues like Monsieur de Grimm, and has ulti- 
mately no serious preoccupation except chewing tobacco, drinking 
alcohol, disembowelling his enemies, and conciliating his sorcerers. 
The rest of the time he sleeps. 

The State is divided among two factions. These are separated 
from each other by a certain incompatibility, not of political 
theory, but of skin. The mulattoes are on one side, the negroes 
on the other. The former have certainly more intelligence and 
are more open to ideas. As I have already remarked in the case 
of San Domingo, the European blood has modified the African 
character. If these men were set in the midst of a large white 
population, and so had good models constantly before their eyes, 
they might become quite useful citizens. Unfortunately the 
negroes are for the time being superior in strength and numbers. 
Although their racial memory of Africa has its origin, in many 
cases, as far back as their grandfathers, they are still completely 
under the sway of African ideals. Their greatest pleasure is 
idleness ; their most cogent argument is murder. The most 
intense hatred has always existed between the two parties in the 
island. The history of Hayti, of democratic Hayti, is merely a 
long series of massacres ; massacres of mulattoes by negroes, or 
of negroes by mulattoes, according as the one or the other held 
the reins of power. The constitution, however enlightened it 
may pretend to be, has no influence whatever. It sleeps harm- 

D 49 


lessly upon the paper on which it is written. The power that 
reigns unchecked is the true spirit of these peoples. According 
to the natural law already mentioned, the black race, belonging 
as it does to a branch of the human family that is incapable of 
civilization, cherishes the deepest feelings of repulsion towards 
all the others. Thus we see the negroes of Hayti violently driving 
out the whites and forbidding them to enter their territory. 
They would like to exclude even the mulattoes ; and they aim at 
their extermination. Hatred of the foreigner is the mainspring 
of local politics. Owing, further, to the innate laziness of the 
race, agriculture is abolished, industry is not even mentioned, 
commerce becomes less every day. The hideous increase of 
misery prevents the growth of population, which is actually being 
diminished by the continual wars, revolts, and military execu- 
tions. The inevitable result is not far off. A country of which the 
fertility and natural resources used to enrich generation after 
generation of planters will become a desert ; and the wild 
goat will roam alone over the fruitful plains, the magnificent 
valleys, the sublime mountains, of the Queen of the Antilles.* 

Let us suppose for a moment that the peoples of this unhappy 
island could manage to live in accordance with the spirit of 
their several races. In such a case they would not be influenced, 
and so (of course) overshadowed, 1 by foreign theories, but would 
found their society in free obedience to their own instincts. 
A separation between the two colours would take place, more or 
less spontaneously, though certainly not without some acts of 

The mulattoes would settle on the seaboard, in order to keep 
continually in touch with Europeans. This is their chief wish. 
Under European direction they would become merchants (and 
especially money-brokers), lawyers, and physicians. They would 
tighten the links with the higher elements of their race by a 

* The colony of San Domingo, before its emancipation, was one of the 
places where the luxury and refinement of wealth had reached its highest 
point. It was, to a superior degree, what Havana has become through 
its commercial activity. The slaves are now free and have set their 
own house in order. This is the result ! 



continual crossing of blood ; they would be gradually improved 
and lose their African character in the same proportion as their 
African blood. 

The negroes would withdraw to the interior and form small 
societies like those of the runaway slaves in San Domingo itself, 
in Martinique, Jamaica, and especially in Cuba, where the size 
of the country and the depth of the forests baffle all pursuit. 
Amid the varied and tropical vegetation of the Antilles, the 
American negro would find the necessities of life yielded him in 
abundance and without labour by the fruitful earth. He would 
return quite freely to the despotic, patriarchal system that is 
naturally suited to those of his brethren on whom the conquering 
Mussulmans of Africa have not yet laid their yoke. The love 
of isolation would be at once the cause and the result of his 
institutions. Tribes would be formed, and become, at the end 
of a short time, foreign and hostile to each other. Local wars 
would constitute the sole political history of the different cantons ; 
and the island, though it would be wild, thinly peopled, and ill- 
cultivated, would yet maintain a double population. This is 
now condemned to disappear, owing to the fatal influence wielded 
by laws and institutions that have no relation to the mind 
of the negro, his interests, and his wants 

The examples of San Domingo and the Sandwich Islands are 
conclusive. But I cannot leave this part of my subject without 
touching on a similar instance, of a peculiar character, which 
strongly supports my view. I cited first a State where the 
institutions, imposed by Protestant preachers, are a mere childish 
copy of the British system. I then spoke of a government, 
materially free, but spiritually bound by European theories ; 
which it tries to carry out, with fatal consequences for the un- 
happy population. I will now bring forward an instance of quite 
a different kind ; I mean the attempt of the Jesuits to civilize 
the natives of Paraguay.* 

These missionaries have been universally praised for their fine 
courage and lofty intelligence. The bitterest enemies of the 

* Consult, on this subject, Prichard, d'Orbigny, A. von Humboldt, &c. 



Order have not been able to withhold a warm tribute of ad- 
miration for them. If any institutions imposed on a nation from 
without ever had a chance of success, it was certainly those of the 
Jesuits, based as they were on a powerful religious sentiment, 
and supported by all the links of association that could be devised 
by an exact and subtle knowledge of human nature. The 
Fathers were persuaded, as so many others have been, that 
barbarism occupies the same place in the life of peoples as infancy 
does in the life of a man ; and that the more rudeness and 
savagery a nation shows, the younger it really is. 

In order, then, to bring their neophytes to the adult stage, 
they treated them like children, and gave them a despotic 
government, which was as unyielding in its real aims, as it was 
mild and gracious in its outward appearance. The savage tribes 
of America have, as a rule, democratic tendencies ; monarchy 
and aristocracy are rarely seen among them, and then only in a 
very limited form. The natural character of the Guaranis, 
among whom the Jesuits came, did not differ in this respect from 
that of the other tribes. Happily, however, their intelligence 
was relatively higher, and their ferocity perhaps a little less, than 
was the case with most of their neighbours ; they had, too, in 
some degree, the power of conceiving new needs. About a 
hundred and twenty thousand souls were collected together in 
the mission villages, under the control of the Fathers. All that 
experience, unremitting study, and the living spirit of charity 
had taught the Jesuits, was now drawn upon ; they made un- 
tiring efforts to secure a quick, though lasting, success. In spite 
of all their care, they found that their absolute power was not 
sufficient to keep their scholars on the right road, and they had 
frequent proofs of the want of solidity in the whole structure. 

The proof was complete, when in an evil hour the edict of the 
Count of Aranda ended the reign of piety and intelligence in 
Paraguay. The Guaranis, deprived of their spiritual guides, 
refused to trust the laymen set over them by the Crown of Spain. 
They showed no attachment to their new institutions. They 
felt once more the call of the savage life, and to-day, with the 



exception of thirty-seven straggling little villages on the banks 
of the Parana, the Paraguay, and the Uruguay — villages in which 
the population is, no doubt, partly hybrid — the rest of the tribes 
have returned to the woods, and live there in just as wild a state 
as the western tribes of the same stock, Guaranis and Cirionos. 
I do not say that they keep all the old customs in their original 
form, but at any rate their present ones show an attempt to 
revive the ancient practices, and are directly descended from 
them ; for no human race can be unfaithful to its instincts, and 
leave the path that has been marked out for it by God. We may 
believe that if the Jesuits had continued to direct their missions 
in Paraguay, their efforts would, in the course of time, have had 
better results. I admit it ; but, in accordance with our universal 
law, this could only have happened on one condition — that 
a series of European settlements should have been gradually 
made in the country under the protection of the Jesuits. These 
settlers would have mingled with the natives, have first modified 
and then completely changed their blood. A State would have 
arisen, bearing perhaps a native name and boasting that it had 
sprung from the soil ; but it would actually have been as European 
as its own institutions. 

This is the end of my argument as to the relation between 
institutions and races. 




I must now consider whether the development of peoples is 
affected (as many writers have asserted) by climate, soil, or 
geographical situation. And although I have briefly touched 
on this point in speaking of environment,* I should be leaving 
a real gap in my theory if I did not discuss it more thoroughly. 

Suppose that a nation lives in a temperate climate, which is 
not hot enough to sap its energies, or cold enough to make the 
soil unproductive ; that its territory contains large rivers, wide 
roads suitable for traffic, plains and valleys capable of varied 
cultivation, and mountains filled with rich veins of ore — we are 
usually led to believe that a nation so favoured by nature will 
be quick to leave the stage of barbarism, and will pass, with no 
difficulty, to that of civilization. f We are just as ready to admit, 
as a corollary, that the tribes which are burnt by the sun or 
numbed by the eternal ice will be much more liable to remain 
in a savage state, living as they do on nothing but barren rocks. 
It goes without saying, that on this hypothesis, mankind is 
capable of perfection only by the help of material nature, and 
that its value and greatness exist potentially outside itself. 
This view may seem attractive at first sight, but it has no support 
whatever from the facts of observation. 

Nowhere is the soil more fertile, the climate milder, than in 
certain parts of America. There is an abundance of great rivers. 
The gulfs, the bays, the harbours, are large, deep, magnificent, 
and innumerable. Precious metals can be dug out almost 

* See above, p. 38. 

+ Compare Cams, Uber ungleiche Befdhigung der verschiedenen Mensch- 
keitstdmme fur hohere geistige Entwickelung (Leipzig, 1849), P- 9^ et 



at the surface of the ground. The vegetable world yields in 
abundance, and almost of its own accord, the necessaries of 
life in the most varied forms ; while the animals, most of which 
are good for food, are a still more valuable source of wealth. 
And yet the greater part of this happy land has been occupied, 
for centuries, by peoples who have not succeeded, to the slightest 
extent, in exploiting their treasures. 

Some have started on the road to improvement. In more 
than one place we come upon an attenuated kind of culture, 
a rudimentary attempt to extract the minerals. The traveller 
may still, to his surprise, find a few useful arts being practised 
with a certain ingenuity. But all these efforts are very humble 
and uncoordinated ; they are certainly not the beginnings of 
any definite civilization. In the vast territory between Lake 
Erie and the Gulf of Mexico, the River Missouri and the Rocky 
Mountains,* there certainly existed, in remote ages, a nation 
which has left remarkable traces of its presence. The remains 
of buildings, the inscriptions engraved on rocks, the tumuli,")" 
the mummies, show that it had reached an advanced state of 
mental culture. But there is nothing to prove a very close 
kinship between this mysterious people and the tribes that now 

* Prichard, " Natural History of Man," sec. 37. See also Squier, " Ob- 
servations on the Aboriginal Monuments of the Mississippi Valley." 

f The special construction of these tumuli and the numerous instruments 
and utensils they contain are occupying the attention of many eminent 
American antiquaries. It is impossible to doubt the great age of these 
monuments. Squier is perfectly right in finding a proof of this in the 
mere fact that the skeletons discovered in the tumuli fall to pieces when 
brought into the slightest contact with the air, although the conditions 
for their preservation are excellent, so far as the quality of the soil is 
concerned. On the other hand, the bodies which lay buried under the 
cromlechs of Brittany, and which are at least 1 800 years old, are perfectly 
firm. Hence we may easily imagine that there is no relation between 
these ancient inhabitants of the land and the tribes of the present day — 
the Lenni-Lenapes and others. I must not end this note without praising 
the industry and resource shown by American scholars in the study of 
the antiquities of their continent. Finding their labours greatly hindered 
by the extreme brittleness of the skulls they had exhumed, they discovered, 
after many abortive attempts, a way of pouring a preparation of bitumen 
into the bodies, which solidifies at once and keeps the bones from crumbling. 
This delicate process, which requires infinite care and quickness, seems, as 
a rule, to be entirely successful. 



wander over its tombs. Suppose, if you will, that there was 
some relation between them, whether by way of blood or of 
slavery, and that thus the natives of to-day did learn from the 
ancient lords of the country, the first rudiments of the arts they 
practise so imperfectly ; this only makes us wonder the more 
that they should have found it impossible to carry any further 
what they had been taught. In fact, this would supply one 
more reason for my belief that not every people would be capable 
of civilization, even if it chose the most favoured spot on earth 
as its settlement. 

Indeed, civilization is quite independent of climate and soil, 
and their adaptability to man's wants. India and Egypt are 
both countries which have had to be artificially fertilized ; * 
yet they are famous centres of human culture and development. 
In China, certain regions are naturally fertile ; but others have 
needed great labour to fit them for cultivation. Chinese history 
begins with the conquest of the rivers. The first benefits con- 
ferred by the ancient Emperors were the opening of canals and 
the draining of marshes. In the country between the Euphrates 
and the Tigris, that beheld the splendour of the first Assyrian 
empire, and is the majestic scene of our most sacred recollections 
— in this region, where wheat is said to grow of its own accord,! 
the soil is naturally so unproductive that vast works of irrigation, 
carried out in the teeth of every difficulty, have been needed to 
make it a fit abode for man. Now that the canals are destroyed 
or filled up, sterility has resumed its ancient reign. I am there- 
fore inclined to believe that nature did not favour these regions 
as much as we are apt to think. But I will not discuss the point. 
I will grant, if you like, that China, Egypt, India, and Assyria, 
contained all the conditions of prosperity, and were eminently 
suited for the founding of powerful empires and the development 

* Ancient India required a vast amount of clearing on the part of the 
first white settlers. See Lassen, Indische Altertumskunde, vol. i. As 
to Egypt, compare Bunsen, Agyptens Stelle in der W eltgesohichte , as to 
the fertilization of the Fayoum, a vast work executed by the early kings. 

f They say that it spontaneously produces wheat, barley, beans, and 
sesame, and all the edible plants that grow in the plains" (Syncellus). 



of great civilizations. But, we must also admit, these conditions 
were of such a kind that, in order to receive any 'benefit from 
them the inhabitants must have reached beforehand, by other 
means, a high stage of social culture. Thus, for the commerce 
to be able to make use of the great waterways, manufactures, 
or at any rate agriculture, must have already existed ; again, 
neighbouring peoples would not have been attracted to these 
great centres before towns and markets had grown up and 
prospered. Thus the great natural advantages of China, India, 
and Assyria, imply not only a considerable mental power on the 
part of the nations that profited by them, but even a civilization 
going back beyond the day when these advantages began to be 
exploited. We will now leave these specially favoured regions, 
and consider others. 

When the Phoenicians, in the course of their migration, left 
Tylos, or some other island in the south-east, and settled in a 
portion of Syria, what did they find in their new home ? A 
desert and rocky coast, forming a narrow strip of land between 
the sea and a range of cliffs that seemed to be cursed with ever- 
lasting barrenness. There was no room for expansion in such 
a place, for the girdle of mountains was unbroken on all sides. 
And yet this wretched country, which should have been a prison, 
became, thanks to the industry of its inhabitants, a crown 
studded with temples and palaces. The Phoenicians, who 
seemed for ever condemned to be a set of fish-eating barbarians, 
or at most a miserable crew of pirates, were, as a fact, pirates on 
a grand scale ; they were also clever and enterprising merchants, 
bold and lucky speculators. " Yes," it may be objected, 
" necessity is the mother of invention ; if the founders of 
Tyre and Sidon had settled in the plains of Damascus, they 
would have been content to live by agriculture, and would 
probably have never become a famous nation. Misery sharpened 
their wits, and awakened their genius." 

Then why does it not awaken the genius of all the tribes of 
Africa, America, and Oceania, who find themselves in a similar 
condition ? The Kabyles of Morocco are an ancient race ; they 



have certainly had a long time for reflection, and, what is more 
striking still, have had every reason to imitate the customs of their 
betters ; why then have they never thought of a more fruitful 
way of alleviating their wretchedness than mere brigandage on 
the high seas ? Why, in the Indian archipelago, which seems 
created for trade, and in the Pacific islands, where intercom- 
munication is so easy, are nearly all the commercial advantages 
in the hands of foreigners — Chinese, Malays, and Arabs ? And 
where half-caste natives or other mixed races have been able to 
share in these advantages, why has the trade at once fallen off ? 
Why is the internal exchange of commodities carried on more 
and more by elementary methods of barter ? The fact is, that 
for a commercial state to be established on any coast or island, 
something more is necessary than an open sea, and the pressure 
exerted by the barrenness of the land — something more, even, 
than the lessons learned from the experience of others ; the 
native of the coast or the island must be gifted with the 
special talent that alone can lead him to profit by the tools 
that lie to his hand, and alone can point him the road to 

It is not enough to show that a nation's value in the scale of 
civilization does not come from the fertility — or, to be more 
precise, the infertility — of the country where it happens to live. 
I must also prove that this value is quite independent of all the 
material conditions of environment. For example, the Armenians, 
shut up in their mountains — the same mountains where, for 
generations, so many other peoples have lived and died in 
barbarism — had already reached a high stage of civilization in 
a very remote age. Yet their country was almost entirely cut 
off from others ; it had no communication with the sea, and 
could boast of no great fertility. 

The Jews were in a similar position. They were surrounded 
by tribes speaking the dialects of a language cognate with their 
own, and for the most part closely connected with them in race ; 
yet they outdistanced all these tribes. They became warriors, 
farmers, and traders. Their method of government was extremely 


complicated ; it was a mixture of monarchy and theocracy, of 
patriarchal and democratic rule (this last being represented by 
the assemblies and the prophets), all in a curious equilibrium. 
Under this government they lived through long ages of prosperity 
and glory, and by a scientific system of emigration they con- 
quered the difficulties that were put in the way of their expansion 
by the narrow limits of their territory. And what kind of 
territory was it ? Modern travellers know what an amount of 
organized effort was required from the Israelite farmers, in 
order to keep up its artificial fertility. Since the chosen race 
ceased to dwell in the mountains and the plains of Palestine, 
the well where Jacob's flocks came down to drink has been 
filled up with sand, Naboth's vineyard has been invaded by the 
desert, and the bramble flourishes in the place where stood the 
palace of Ahab. And what did the Jews become, in this miser- 
able corner of the earth ? They became a people that succeeded 
in everything it undertook, a free, strong, and intelligent people, 
and one which, before it lost, sword in hand, the name of an 
independent nation, had given as many learned men to the 
world as it had merchants.* 

The Greeks themselves could not wholly congratulate them- 
selves on their geographical position. Their country was a 
wretched one, for the most part. Arcadia was beloved of shep- 
herds, Bceotia claimed to be dear to Demeter and Tripto- 
lemus ; but Arcadia and Bceotia play a very minor part in Greek 
history. The rich and brilliant Corinth itself, favoured by 
Plutus and Aphrodite, is in this respect only in the second rank. 
To which city belongs the chief glory ? To Athens, where the 
fields and olive-groves were perpetually covered with grey dust, 
and where statues and books were the main articles of com- 
merce; to Sparta also, a city buried in a narrow valley, at 
the foot of a mass of rocks which Victory had to cross to find her 

And what of the miserable quarter of Latium that was chosen 
for the foundation of Rome ? The little river Tiber, on whose 
* Salvador, Histoire des Juifs. 



banks it lay, flowed down to an almost unknown coast, that 
no Greek or Phoenician ship had ever touched, save by chance ; 
was it through her situation that Rome became the mistress of 
the world ? No sooner did the whole world lie at the feet of the 
Roman eagles, than the central government found that its 
capital was ill-placed ; and the long series of insults to the 
eternal city began. The early emperors had their eyes turned 
towards Greece, and nearly always lived there. When Tiberius 
was in Italy he stayed at Capri, a point facing the two halves 
of the empire. His successors went to Antioch. Some of 
them, in view of the importance of Gaul, went as far north as 
Treves. Finally, an edict took away even the title of chief 
city from Rome and conferred it on Milan. If the Romans 
made some stir in the world, it was certainly in spite of 
the position of the district from which their first armies issued 

Coming down to modern history I am overwhelmed by the 
multitude of facts that support my theory. I see prosperity 
suddenly leaving the Mediterranean coasts, a clear proof that 
it was not inseparably attached to them. The great commercial 
cities of the Middle Ages grew up in places where no political 
philosopher of an earlier time would have thought of founding 
them. Novgorod rose in the midst of an ice-bound land ; 
Bremen on a coast almost as cold. The Hanseatic towns in the 
centre of Germany were built in regions plunged, as it seemed, 
in immemorial slumber. Venice emerged from a deep gulf in 
the Adriatic. The balance of political power was shifted to 
places scarcely heard of before, but now gleaming with a new 
splendour. In France the whole strength was concentrated to 
the north of the Loire, almost beyond the Seine. Lyons, Toulouse, 
Narbonne, Marseilles, and Bordeaux fell from the high dignity to 
which they had been called by the Romans. It was Paris that 
became the important city, Paris, which was too far from the 
sea for purposes of trade, and which would soon prove too near 
to escape the invasions of the Norman pirates. In Italy, towns 
formerly of the lowest rank became greater than the city of the 



Popes. Ravenna rose from its marshes, Amalfi began its long 
career of power. Chance, I may remark, had no part in these 
changes, which can all be explained by the presence, at the given 
point, of a victorious or powerful race. In other words, a nation 
does not derive its value from its position ; it never has and 
never will. On the contrary, it is the people which has always 
given — and always will give — to the land its moral, economic, 
and political value. 

I add, for the sake of clearness, that I have no wish to deny 
the importance of geographical position for certain towns, 
whether they are trade-centres, ports, or capitals. The arguments 
that have been brought forward,* in the case of Constantinople 
and especially of Alexandria, are indisputable. There certainly 
exist different points which we may call " the keys of the earth." 
Thus we may imagine that when the isthmus of Panama is 
pierced, the power holding the town that is yet to be built on the 
hypothetical canal, might play a great part in the history of the 
world. But this part will be played well, badly, or even not at 
all, according to the intrinsic excellence of the people in question. 
Make Chagres into a large city, let the two seas meet under its 
walls, and assume that you are free to fill it with what settlers 
you will. Your choice will finally determine the future of the 
new town. Suppose that Chagres is not exactly in the best 
position to develop all the advantages coming from the junction 
of the two oceans ; then, if the race is really worthy of its high 
calling, it will remove to some other place where it may in perfect 
freedom work out its splendid destiny.f 

* M. Saint -Marc Girardin, in the Revue des Deux Mondes. 

f We may cite, on the subject treated in this chapter, the opinion of a 
learned historian, though it is rather truculent in tone : 

" A large number of writers are convinced that the country makes the 
people ; that the Bavarians or the Saxons were predestined by the nature 
of the soil to become what they are to-day ; that Protestantism does not 
suit the South, nor Catholicism the North, and so on. Some of the people 
who interpret history in the light of their meagre knowledge, narrow 
sympathies, and limited intelligence would like to show that the nation 
of which we are speaking (the Jews) possessed such and such qualities — 
whether these gentlemen understand the nature of the qualities or not — 
merely from having lived in Palestine instead of India or Greece. But 



if these great scholars, who are so clever in proving everything, would 
condescend to reflect that the soil of the Holy Land has contained in 
its limited area very different peoples, with different ideas and religions, 
and that between these various peoples and their successors at the present 
day there have been infinite degrees of diversity, although the actual 
country has remained the same — they would then see how little influence 
is exerted by material conditions on a nation's character and civilization." 
Ewald, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, vol. i, p. 259. 




After my arguments on the subject of institutions and climates, 
I come to another, which I should really have put before all the 
rest ; not that I think it stronger than they are, but because 
the facts on which it is based naturally command our reverence. 
If my conclusions in the preceding chapters are admitted, two 
points become increasingly evident : first, that most human 
races are for ever incapable of civilization, so long as they 
remain unmixed ; secondly, that such races are not only without 
the inner impulse necessary to start them on the path of im- 
provement, but also that no external force, however energetic 
in other respects, is powerful enough to turn their congenital 
barrenness into fertility. Here we shall be asked, no doubt, 
whether the light of Christianity is to shine in vain on entire 
nations, and whether some peoples are doomed never to behold 
it at all. 

Some writers have answered in the affirmative. They have 
not scrupled to contradict the promise of the Gospel, by denying 
the most characteristic feature of the new law, which is precisely 
that of being accessible to all men. Their view merely restates 
the old formula of the Hebrews, to which it returns by a little 
larger gate than that of the Old Covenant ; but it returns all 
the same. I have no desire to follow the champions of this idea, 
which is condemned by the Church, nor have I the least difficulty 
in admitting that all human races are gifted with an equal capacity 
for being received into the bosom of the Christian Communion. 
Here there is no impediment arising from any original difference 
between races ; for this purpose their inequalities are of no 
account. Religions and their followers are not, as has been 



assumed, distributed in zones over the surface of the earth. It 
is not true that Christianity must rule from this meridian to 
that, while from such and such a point Islam takes up the sceptre, 
holding it only as far as a certain impassable frontier, and then 
having to deliver it into the hands of Buddhism or Brahmanism, 
while the fetichists of the tribe of Ham divide among themselves 
the rest of the world. 

Christians are found in all latitudes and all climates. Statistics, 
inaccurate perhaps, but still approximately true, show us a vast 
number of them, Mongols wandering in the plains of Upper 
Asia, savages hunting on the tableland of the Cordilleras, Eskimos 
fishing in the ice of the Arctic circle, even Chinese and Japanese 
dying under the scourge of the persecutor. The least observation 
will show this, and will also prevent us from falling into the 
very common error of confusing the universal power of recog- 
nizing the truths of Christianity and following its precepts, with 
the very different facuLy that leads one human race, and not 
another, to understand the earthly conditions of social improve- 
ment, and to be able to pass from one rung of the ladder to 
another, so as to reach finally the state which we call civilization. 
The rungs of this ladder are the measure of the inequality of 
human races. 

It was held, quite wrongly, in the last century, that the doctrine 
of renunciation, a corner-stone of Christianity, was essentially 
opposed to social development ; and that people to whom the 
highest virtue consists in despising the things here below, and 
in turning their eyes and hearts, without ceasing, towards the 
heavenly Jerusalem, will not do much to help the progress of 
this world. The very imperfection of man may serve to rebut 
such an argument. There has never been any serious reason 
to fear that he will renounce the joys of earth ; and though the 
counsels of religion were expressly directed to this point, we 
may say that they were pulling against a current that they knew 
to be irresistible, and were merely demanding a great deal in 
order to obtain a very little. Further, the Christian precepts 
are a great aid to society ; they plane away all roughness, they 



pour the oil of charity on all social relations, they condemn 
violence, force men to appeal to the sole authority of reason, 
and so gain for the spirit a plenitude of power which works in 
a thousand ways for the good of the flesh. Again, religion 
elevates the mind by the metaphysical and intellectual character 
of its dogmas, while through the purity of its moral ideal it tends 
to free the spirit from a host of corrosive vices and weaknesses, 
which are dangerous to material progress. Thus, as against 
the philosophers of the eighteenth century, we are right in calling 
Christianity a civilizing power — but only within certain limits ; 
if we take the words in too wide a sense, we shall find ourselves 
drawn into a maze of error. 

Christianity is a civilizing force in so far as it makes a man 
better minded and better mannered ; yet it is only indirectly so, 
for it has no idea of applying this improvement in morals and 
intelligence to the perishable things of this world, and it is always 
content with the social conditions in which it finds its neophytes, 
however imperfect the conditions may be. So long as it can 
pull out the noxious weeds that stifle the well-being of the soul, 
it is indifferent to everything else. It leaves all men as it finds 
them — the Chinese in his robes, the Eskimo in his furs, the first 
eating rice, and the second eating whale-blubber. It does not 
require them to change their way of life. If their state can be 
improved as a direct consequence of their conversion, then 
Christianity will certainly do its best to bring such an improve- 
ment about ; but it will not try to alter a single custom, and 
certainly will not force any advance from one civilization to 
another, for it has not yet adopted one itself. It uses all civiliza- 
tions and is above all. There are proofs in abundance, and I 
will speak of them in a moment ; but I must first make the 
confession that I have never understood the ultra-modern 
doctrine which identifies the law of Christ and the interests of 
this world in such a way that it creates from their union a fictitious 
social order which it calls " Christian civilization." 

There is certainly such a thing as a pagan civilization, just as 
there is a Brahman, Buddhist, or Jewish civilization. Societies 

E 65 


have existed, and still exist, which are absolutely based on 
religion. Religion has given them their constitution, drawn up 
their laws, settled their civic duties, marked out their frontiers, 
and prescribed their foreign policy. Such societies have only 
been able to persist by placing themselves under a more or less 
strict theocracy. We can no more imagine their living without 
their rites and creeds than we can imagine the rites and creeds 
existing by themselves, without the people. The whole of 
antiquity was more or less in this condition. Roman states- 
manship certainly invented the legal tolerance of creeds, and a 
decadent theology produced a vast system of fusion and assimila- 
tion of cults ; but these belonged to the latest age of paganism, 
when the fruit was already rotten on the tree. While it was 
young and flourishing, there were as many Jupiters, Mercuries, 
and Venuses, as there were towns. The god was a jealous god, 
in a sense quite different from the jealousy of the Jewish God ; 
he was still more exclusive, and recognized no one but his fellow- 
citizens in this world and the next. Every ancient civilization 
rose to greatness under the aegis of some divinity, of some par- 
ticular cult. Religion and the State were united so closely and 
inseparably that the responsibility for all that happened was 
shared between them. We may speak, if we will, of " finding 
traces of the cult of the Tyrian Heracles in the public policy 
of Carthage " ; but I think that we can really identify the effects 
of the doctrines taught by the priests with the policy of the 
suffetes and the trend of social development. Again, I have 
no doubt that the dog-headed Anubis, Isis Neith, and the Ibises 
taught the men of the Nile valley all that they knew and 
practised. Christianity, however, acted in this respect quite 
differently from all preceding religions ; this was its greatest 
innovation. Unlike them, it had no chosen people. It was 
addressed to the whole world, not only to the rich or the 
poor. From the first it received from the Holy Ghost the gift 
of tongues,* that it might speak to each man in the language 
of his country, and proclaim the Gospel by means of the 

* Acts ii, 4, 8, 9-1 1. 



ideas and images that each nation could best understand. It 
did not come to change the outward part of man, the material 
world ; it taught him to despise this outward part, and was 
only concerned with his inner self. We read in a very ancient 
apocryphal book, " Let not the strong man boast of his strength, 
nor the rich man of his riches ; but let him who will be glorified 
glorify himself in the Lord." * Strength, riches, worldly power, 
and the way of ambition — all these have no meaning for our 
law. No civilization whatever has excited its envy or contempt ; 
and because of this rare impartiality, and the consequences that 
were to flow from it, the law could rightly call itself " Catholic," 
or universal. It does not belong exclusively to any civilization. 
It did not come to bless any one form of earthly existence ; it 
rejects none, and would purify all. 

The canonical books, the writings of the Fathers, the stories 
of the missionaries of all ages, are filled with proofs of this in- 
difference to the outward forms of social life, and to social life 
itself. Provided that a man believes, and that none of his daily 
actions tend to transgress the ordinances of religion, nothing 
else matters. Of what importance is the shape of a Christian's 
house, the cut and material of his clothes, his system of govern- 
ment, the measure of tyranny or liberty in his public institutions ? 
He may be a fisherman, a hunter, a ploughman, a sailor, a soldier 
— whatever you like. In all these different employments is 
there anything to prevent a man — to whatever nation he belong, 
English, Turkish, Siberian, American, Hottentot — from receiving 
the light of the Christian faith ? Absolutely nothing ; and 
when this result is attained, the rest counts for very little. The 
savage Galla can remain a Galla, and yet become as staunch 
a believer, as pure a " vessel of election," as the holiest pre- 
late in Europe. It is here that Christianity shows its striking 
superiority to other religions, in its peculiar quality of grace. We 
must not take this away, in deference to a favourite idea of 
modern Europe, that something of material utility must be 
found everywhere, even in the holiest things. 

* Apocryphal Gospels : " The Story of Joseph the Carpenter," chap. i. 

6 7 


During the eighteen centuries that the Church has existed, 
it has converted many nations. In all these it has allowed the 
political conditions to reign unchecked, just as it found them at 
first. It began by protesting to the world of antiquity that it 
did not wish to alter in the slightest degree the outward forms of 
society. It has been even reproached, on occasion, with an 
excess of tolerance in this respect ; compare, for example, the 
attitude of the Jesuits towards the Chinese ceremonies. We do 
not, however, find that Christianity has ever given the world a 
unique type of civilization to which all believers had to belong. 
The Church adapts itself to everything, even to the mud-hut ; 
and wherever there is a savage too stupid even to understand 
the use of shelter, you are sure to find a devoted missionary sitting 
beside him on the hard rock, and thinking of nothing but how 
to impress his soul with the ideas essential to salvation. Chris- 
tianity is thus not a civilizing power in the ordinary sense of the 
word ; it can be embraced by the most different races without 
stunting their growth, or making demands on them that they 
cannot fulfil. 

I said above that Christianity elevates the soul by the sublimity 
of its dogmas, and enlarges the intellect by their subtlety. This 
is only true in so far as the soul and intellect to which it appeals 
are capable of being enlarged and elevated. Its mission is not 
'to bestow the gift of genius, or to provide ideas for those who 
are without them. Neither genius nor ideas are necessary for 
salvation. Indeed the Church has expressly declared that it 
prefers the weak and lowly to the strong. It gives only what it 
wishes to receive. It fertilizes but does not create. It supports 
but does not lift on high. It takes the man as he is, and merely 
helps him to walk. If he is lame, it does not ask him to run. 

If I open the " Lives of the Saints," shall I find many wise men 
among them ? Certainly not. The company of the blessed 
ones whose name and memory are honoured by the Church 
consists mainly of those who were eminent for their virtue and 
devotion ; but, though full of genius in all that concerned heaven, 
they had none for the things of earth. When I see St. Rosa of 



Lima honoured equally with St. Bernard, the intercession of St. 
Zita valued no less than that of St. Teresa ; when I see all the 
Anglo-Saxon saints, most of the Irish monks, the unsavoury 
hermits of the Egyptian Thebaid, the legions of martyrs who 
sprang from the dregs of the people and whom a sudden flash 
of courage and devotion raised to shine eternally in glory — when 
I see all these venerated to the same extent as the cleverest 
apologists of dogma, as the wisest champions of the faith, then I 
find myself justified in my conclusion that Christianity is not a 
civilizing power, in the narrow and worldly sense of the phrase. 
Just as it merely asks of every man what he has himself received, 
so it asks nothing of any race but what it is capable of giving, 
and does not set it in a higher place among the civilized races of 
the earth than its natural powers give it a right to expect. Hence 
I absolutely deny the egalitarian argument which identifies the 
possibility of adopting the Christian faith with that of an un- 
limited intellectual growth. Most of the tribes of South America 
were received centuries ago into the bosom of the Church ; but 
they have always remained savages, with no understanding of 
the European civilization unfolding itself before their eyes. I 
am not surprised that the Cherokees of North America have been 
largely converted by Methodist missionaries ; but it would 
greatly astonish me if this tribe, while it remained pure in blood, 
ever managed to form one of the States of the American Union, 
or exert any influence in Congress. I find it quite natural also 
that the Danish Lutherans and the Moravians should have 
opened the eyes of the Eskimos to the light of faith ; but I think 
it equally natural that their disciples should have remained in 
the social condition in which they had been stagnating for ages. 
Again, the Swedish Lapps are, as we might have expected, in the 
same state of barbarism as their ancestors, even though centuries 
have passed since the gospel first brought them the message of 
salvation. All these peoples may produce — perhaps have pro- 
duced already — men conspicuous for their piety and the purity of 
their lives ; but I do not expect to see learned theologians among 
them, or skilful soldiers, or clever mathematicians, or great 


artists. In other words they will for ever exclude the select 
company of the fine spirits who clasp hands across the ages and 
continually renew the strength of the dominant races. Still less 
will those rare and mighty geniuses appear who are followed by 
their nations, in the paths they mark out for themselves, only 
if those nations are themselves able to understand them and go 
forward under their direction. Even as a matter of justice we 
must leave Christianity absolutely out of the present ques- 
tion. If all races are equally capable of receiving its benefits, 
it cannot have been sent to bring equality among men. Its 
kingdom, we may say, is in the most literal sense " not of this 

Many people are accustomed to judge the merits of Christianity 
in the light of the prejudices natural to our age ; and I fear that, 
in spite of what I have said above, they may have some difficulty 
in getting rid of their inaccurate ideas. Even if they agree on 
the whole with my conclusions, they may still believe that 
the scale is turned by the indirect action of religion on conduct, 
of conduct on institutions, of institutions on the whole social 
order. I cannot admit any such action. My opponents will 
assert that the personal influence of the missionaries, nay, their 
mere presence, will be enough to change appreciably the political 
condition of the converts and their ideas of material well-being. 
They will say, for example, that these apostles nearly always 
(though not invariably) come from a nation more advanced than 
that to which they are preaching ; thus they will of their own 
accord, almost by instinct, change the merely human customs of 
their disciples, while they are reforming their morals. Suppose 
the missionaries have to do with savages, plunged in an abyss of 
wretchedness through their own ignorance. They will instruct 
them in useful arts and show them how men escape from famine 
by work on the land. After providing the necessary tools for 
this, they will go further, and teach them how to build better 
huts, to rear cattle, to control the water-supply — both in order 
to irrigate their fields, and to prevent inundations. Little by 
little they will manage to give them enough taste for matters of 



the intellect to make them use an alphabet, and perhaps, as the 
Cherokees have done,* invent one for themselves. Finally, if 
they are exceptionally successful, they will bring their cultivated 
disciples to imitate so exactly the customs of which the mis- 
sionaries have told them, that they will possess, like the Cherokees 
and the Creeks on the south bank of the Arkansas, flocks of 
valuable sheep, and even a collection of black slaves to work on 
their plantations. They will be completely equipped for living 
on the land. 

I have expressly chosen as examples the two races which are 
considered to be the most advanced of all. Yet, far from agree- 
ing with the advocates of equality, I cannot imagine any more 
striking instances than these of the general incapacity of any 
race to adopt a way of life which it could not have found for 

These two peoples are the isolated remnant of many nations 
which have been driven out or annihilated by the whites. They 
are naturally on a different plane from the rest, since they are 
supposed to be descended from the ancient Alleghany race to 
which the great ruins found to the north of the Mississippi are 
attributed.! Here is already a great inconsistency in the argu- 
ments of those who assert that the Cherokees are the equals of 
the European races ; for the first step in their proof is that 
these Alleghany tribes are near the Anglo-Saxons precisely be- 
cause they are themselves superior to the other races of North 
America ! Well, what has happened to these chosen peoples ? 
The American Government took their ancient territories from 
both the tribes, and, by means of a special treaty, made them 
emigrate to a definite region, where separate places of settlement 
were marked out for them. Here, under the general superin- 
tendence of the Ministry of War and the direct guidance of 
Protestant missionaries, they were forced to take up their present 
mode of life, whether they liked it or not. The writer from whom 
I borrow these details — and who has himself taken them from the 

* Prichard, " Natural History of Man," sec. 41. 
t Ibid. 



great work of Gallatin ♦—says the number of the Cherokees is 
continually increasing. His argument is that at the time when 
Adair visited them, their warriors were estimated at 2300, while 
to-day the sum-total of their population is calculated to be 
15,000 ; this figure includes, it is true, the 1200 negro slaves 
who have become their property. He also adds, however, that 
their schools are, like their churches, in the hands of the mis- 
sionaries, and that these missionaries, being Protestants, are 
for the most part married men with white children or servants, 
and probably also a sort of general staff of Europeans, acting as 
clerks, and the like. It thus becomes very difficult to establish 
the fact of any real increase in the number of the natives, 
while on the other hand it is very easy to appreciate the strong 
pressure that must be exerted by the European race over its 
pupils, t 

The possibility of making war is clearly taken away from them ; 
they are exiled, surrounded on all sides by the American power, 
which is too vast for them to comprehend, and are, I believe, 
sincerely converted to the religion of their masters. They are 
kindly treated by their spiritual guides and convinced of the 
necessity for working, in the sense in which work is understood 
by their masters, if they are not to die of hunger. Under these 
conditions I can quite imagine that they will become successful 
agriculturists, and will learn to carry out the ideas that have 
been dinned into them, day in, day out, without ceasing. 

* " Synopsis of the Indian Tribes of North America." 
-■f I have discussed Prichard's facta without questioning their value. 
I might, however, have simply denied them, and should have bad on my 
side the weighty authority of A. de Tocqueville, who in his great work on 
" Democracy in America " refers to the Cherokees in these words : " The 
presence of half-breeds has favoured the very rapid development of Euro- 
pean habits among the Indians. The half-breed shares the enlightenment 
of his father without entirely giving up the savage customs of his mother's 
race. He is thus a natural link between civilization and barbarism. 
Wherever half-breeds exist and multiply we see the savages gradually 
changing their customs and social conditions " (" Democracy in America," 
vol. iii). Do Tocqueville ends by prophesying that although the Cherokees 
and the Creeks are half-breeds and not natives, as Prichard says, they 
will nevertheless disappear in a short time through the encroachment of 
the white race. 



By the exercise of a little patience and by the judicious use of 
hunger as a spur to greed, we can teach animals what they would 
never learn by instinct. But to cry out at our success would be 
to rate much lower than it is the intelligence even of the humblest 
member of the human family. When the village fairs are full of 
learned animals going through the most complicated tricks, can 
we be surprised that men, who have been submitted to a rigorous 
training and cut off from all means of escape or relaxation, should 
manage to perform those functions of civilized life which, even in 
a savage state, they might be able to understand, without having 
the desire to practise them ? The result is a matter of course ; 
and anyone who is surprised at it is putting man far below the 
card-playing dog or the horse who orders his dinner ! By 
arbitrarily gathering one's premises from the " intelligent 
actions " of a few human groups, one ends in being too easily 
satisfied, and in coming to feel enthusiasms which are not very 
flattering even to those who are their objects. 

I know that some learned men have given colour to these 
rather obvious comparisons by asserting that between some 
human races and the larger apes there is only a slight difference 
of degree, and none of kind. As I absolutely reject such an insult 
to humanity, I may be also allowed to take no notice of the 
exaggerations by which it is usually answered. I believe, of 
course, that human races are unequal ; but I do not think that 
any of them are like the brute, or to be classed with it. The 
lowest tribe, the most backward and miserable variety of the 
human species, is at least capable of imitation ; and I have no 
doubt that if we take one of the most hideous bushmen, we could 
develop — I do not say in him, if he is already grown up, but in 
his son or at any rate his grandson — sufficient intelligence to 
make his acts correspond to a certain degree of civilization, 
even if this required some conscious effort of study on his part. 
Are we to infer that the people to which he belongs could be 
civilized on our model ? This would be a hasty and superficial 
conclusion. From the practice of the arts and professions 
invented under an advanced civilization, it is a far cry to that 



civilization itself. Further, though the Protestant missionaries 
are an indispensable link between the savage tribe and the central 
civilizing power, is it certain that these missionaries are equal 
to the task imposed on them ? Are they the masters of a com- 
plete system of social science ? I doubt it. If communications 
were suddenly cut off between the American Government and 
its spiritual legates among the Cherokees, the traveller would find 
in the native farms, at the end of a few years, some new practices 
that he had not expected. These would result from the mixture 
of white and Indian blood ; and our traveller would look in vain 
for anything more than a very pale copy of what is taught at 
New York. 

We often hear of negroes who have learnt music, who are 
clerks in banking-houses, and who know how to read, write, 
count, dance, and speak, like white men. People are astonished 
at this, and conclude that the negro is capable of everything ! 
And then, in the same breath, they will express surprise at the 
contrast between the Slav civilization and our own. The 
Russians, Poles, and Serbians (they will say), even though they 
are far nearer to us than the negroes, are only civilized on the 
surface ; the higher classes alone participate in our ideas, owing 
to the continual admixture of English, French, and German 
blood. The masses, on the other hand, are. invincibly ignorant 
of the Western world and its movements, although they have 
been Christian for so many centuries — in many cases before we 
were converted ourselves ! The solution is simple. There is 
a great difference between imitation and conviction. Imitation 
does not necessarily imply a serious breach with hereditary 
instincts ; but no one has a real part in any civilization until he is 
able to make progress by himself, without direction from others.* 

* In discussing the list of remarkable negroes which is given in the 
first instance by Blumenbach and could easily be supplemented, Carus 
well says that among the black races there has never been any politics 
or literature or any developed ideas of art, and that when any individual 
negroes have distinguished themselves it has always been the result of 
white influence. There is not a single man among them to be compared, 
I will not say to one of our men of genius, but to the heroes of the yellow 
races — for example, Confucius. (Carus, op. cit.) 



What is the use of telling me how clever some particular savages 
are in guiding the plough, in spelling, or reading, when they are 
only repeating the lessons they have learnt ? Show me rather, 
among the many regions in which negroes have lived for ages in 
contact with Europeans, one single place where, in addition to 
the religious doctrines, the ideas, customs, and institutions of even 
one European people have been so completely assimilated that 
progress in them is made as naturally and spontaneously as among 
ourselves. Show me a place where the introduction of printing 
has had results, similar to those in Europe, where our sciences are 
brought to perfection, where new applications are made of our 
discoveries, where our philosophies are the parents of other 
philosophies, of political systems, of literature and art, of books, 
statues, and pictures ! 

But I am not really so exacting and narrow-minded as I seem. 
I am not seriously asking that a people should adopt our whole 
individuality at the same time as our faith. I am willing to admit 
that it should reject our way of thinking and strike out quite 
a different one. Well then ! let me see our negro, at the moment 
when he opens his eyes to the light of the Gospel, suddenly 
realizing that his earthly path is as dark and perplexed as his 
spiritual life was before. Let me see him creating for himself 
a new social order in his own image, putting ideas into practice 
that have hitherto rusted unused, taking foreign notions and 
moulding them to his purpose. I will wait long for the work 
to be finished ; I merely ask that it may be begun. But it has 
never been begun ; it has never even been attempted. You may 
search through all the pages of history, and you will not find 
a single people that has attained to European civilization 
by adopting Christianity, or has been brought by the great 
fact of its conversion to civilize itself when it was not civilized 

On the other hand, I shall find, In the vast tracts of Southern 
Asia and in certain parts of Europe, States fused together out of 
men of very different religions. The unalterable hostility of 
races, however, will be found side by side with that of cults ; 



we can distinguish the Pathan who has become a Christian from 
the converted Hindu, just as easily as we separate to-day the 
Russian of Orenburg from the nomad Christian tribes among 
which he lives. 

Once more, Christianity is not a civilizing power, and has 
excellent reasons for not being so. 

7 6 



Here I must enter on a digression vital to my argument. At 
every turn I am using a word involving a circle of ideas which 
it is very necessary to define. I am continually speaking of 
" civilization," and cannot help doing so ; for it is only by the 
existence in some measure, or the complete absence, of this 
attribute that I can gauge the relative merits of the different 
races. I refer both to European civilization and to others which 
may be distinguished from it. I must not leave the slightest 
vagueness on this point, especially as I differ from the celebrated 
writer who alone in France has made it his special business to fix 
the meaning and province of this particular word. 

Guizot, if I may be allowed to dispute his great authority, 
begins his book on " Civilization in Europe " by a confusion of 
terms which leads him into serious error. He calls civilization 
an event. 

The word event must be used by Guizot in a less positive and 
accurate way than it usually is — in a wide, uncertain, elastic sense 
that it never bears ; otherwise, it does not properly define the 
meaning of the word civilization at all. Civilization is not an 
event, it is a series, a chain of events linked more or less logically 
together and brought about by the inter-action of ideas which are 
often themselves very complex. There is a continual bringing to 
birth of further ideas and events. The result is sometimes 
incessant movement, sometimes stagnation. In either case, 
civilization is not an event, but an assemblage of events and ideas, 
a state in which a human society subsists, an environment with 
which it has managed to surround itself, which is created by it, 
emanates from it, and in turn reacts on it. 



This state is universal in a sense in which an event never is. 
It admits of many variations which it could not survive if it 
were merely an event. Further, it is quite independent of all 
forms of government ; it makes as much progress under a 
despotism as under the freest democracy, and it does not cease to 
exist when the conditions of political life are modified or even 
absolutely changed by civil war. 

This does not mean that we may more or less neglect the forms 
of government. They are intimately bound up with the health 
of the social organism ; its prosperity is impaired or destroyed 
if the choice of government is bad, favoured and developed if 
the choice is good. But we are not concerned here with mere 
questions of prosperity. Our subject is more serious. It deals 
with the very existence of peoples and of civilization ; and 
civilization has to do with certain elemental conditions which are 
independent of politics, and have to look far deeper for the 
motive-forces that bring them into being, direct, and expand 
them, make them fruitful or barren and, in a word, mould their 
whole life. In face of such root-questions as these, considerations 
of government, prosperity, and misery naturally take a second 
place. The first place is always and everywhere held by the 
question "to be or not to be," which is as supreme for a people 
as for an individual. As Guizot does not seem to have realized 
this, civilization is to him not a state or an environment, but an 
event; and he finds its generating principle in another event, 
of a purely political character. 

If we open his eloquent and famous book, we shall come upon 
a mass of hypotheses calculated to set his leading idea into relief. 
After mentioning a certain number of situations to which human 
societies might come, the author asks " whether common instinct 
would recognize in these the conditions under which a people 
civilizes itself, in the natural sense of the word." 

The first hypothesis is as follows : " Consider a people whose 
external life is easy and luxurious. It pays few taxes, and is in 
no distress. Justice is fairly administered between man and man. 
In fact, its material and moral life is carefully kept in a state of 



inertia, of torpor, I will not say of oppression, because there is no 
feeling of this, but at any rate of repression. The case is not 
unexampled. There have been a large number of little aristo- 
cratic republics, where the subjects have been treated in this way, 
like sheep, well looked after and, in a material sense, happy, but 
without any intellectual or moral activity. Is this civilization ? 
And is such a people civilizing itself ? " 

I do not know whether it is actually civilizing itself ; but 
certainly the people of whom he speaks might be very " civilized." 
Otherwise, we should have to rank among savage tribes or 
barbarians all the aristocratic republics, of ancient and modern 
times, which Guizot confessedly includes as instances of his 
hypothesis. The general instinct would certainly be offended 
by a method that forbids not only the Phoenicians, the Cartha- 
ginians, and the Spartans to enter the temple of civilization, but 
also the Venetians, the Genoese, the Pisans, and all the free 
Imperial cities of Germany, in a word all the powerful munici- 
palities of the last few centuries. This conclusion seems in 
itself too violently paradoxical to be admitted by the common 
sense to which it appeals ; but besides this, it has, I think, to 
face a still greater difficulty. These little aristocratic States 
which, owing to their form of government, Guizot refuses to 
accept as capable of civilization, have never, in most cases, 
possessed a special and unique culture. However powerful 
many of them may have been, they were in this respect assimilated 
to peoples who were differently governed, but very near them in 
race ; they merely shared in a common civilization. Thus, 
though the Carthaginians and the Phoenicians were at a great 
distance from each other, they were nevertheless united by a 
similar form of culture, which had its prototype in Assyria. 
The Italian republics took part in the movement of ideas and 
opinions which were dominant in the neighbouring monarchies. 
The Imperial towns of Swabia and Thuringia were quite inde- 
pendent politically, but were otherwise wholly within the sweep 
of the general progress or decadence of the German race. Hence 
while Guizot is distributing his orders of merit among the nations 



according to their degree of political liberty and their forms of 
government, he is really making cleavages, within races, that he 
cannot justify, and assuming differences that do not exist. A 
more detailed discussion of the point would hardly be in place 
here, and I pass on. If I did open such an argument, I should 
begin (and rightly I think) by refusing to admit that Pisa, Genoa, 
Venice, and the rest were in any way inferior to towns such as 
Milan, Naples, and Rome. 

Guizot himself anticipates such an objection. He does not 
allow that a people is civilized, " which is governed mildly, but 
kept in a state of repression " ; yet he also refuses civilization 
to another people " whose material life is less easy and luxurious, 
though still tolerable, yet whose moral and intellectual needs 
have not been neglected. ... In the people I am supposing," he 
says, " pure and noble sentiments are fostered. Their religious 
and ethical beliefs are developed to a certain degree, but the idea 
of freedom is extinct. Every one has his share of truth doled out 
to him ; no one is allowed to seek it for himself. This is the 
condition into which most of the Asiatic nations, the Hindus, 
for example, have fallen ; their manly qualities are sapped by 
the domination of the priests." 

Thus into the same limbo as the aristocratic peoples must now 
be thrust the Hindus, the Egyptians, the Etruscans, the Peruvians, 
the Tibetans, the Japanese, and even the districts subject to 
modern Rome. 

I will not touch on Guizot's last two hypotheses, for the first 
two have so restricted the meaning of civilization that scarcely 
any nation of the earth can rightly lay claim to it any more. 
In order to do so a people would have to live under institutions in 
which power and freedom were equally mingled, and material de- 
velopment and moral progress co-ordinated in one particular way. 
Government and religion would have strict limits drawn round 
them, beyond which they would not be allowed to advance. 
Finally, the subjects would necessarily possess rights of a very 
definite kind. On such an assumption, the only civilized peoples 
would be those whose government is both constitutional and 



representative. Thus, I should not be able to save any of the 
European nations from the indignity of being thrust into 
barbarism ; and, as I should be always measuring the degree 
of civilization with reference to one single and unique political 
standard, I should gradually come to reject even those con- 
stitutional states that made a bad use of their Parliaments, and 
keep the prize exclusively for those which used them well. In 
the end I should be driven to consider only one nation, of all 
that have ever lived, as truly civilized — namely, the English. 

I am, of course, full of respect and admiration for the great 
people whose power and prodigious deeds are witnessed in every 
corner of the world by their victories, their industry, and their 
commerce. I do not, however, feel that I am bound to respect 
and admire no other. It seems to me a confession altogether 
too cruel and humiliating to mankind, to say that, since the 
beginning of the ages, it has only succeeded in producing the 
full flower of civilization on a little island in the western ocean, 
and that even there the true principle was not discovered before 
the reign of William and Mary. Such a conception seems, you 
must allow, a little narrow. And then consider its danger. If 
civilization depends on a particular form of government, then 
reason, observation, and science will soon have no voice in the 
question at all ; party-feeling alone will decide. Some bold 
spirits will be found to follow their own preferences, and refuse 
to the British institutions the honour of being the ideal of human 
perfection ; all their enthusiasm will be given to the system 
established at Petrograd or Vienna. Many people, perhaps the 
majority of those living between the Rhine and the Pyrenees, 
will hold that, in spite of some defects, France is still the most 
civilized country in the world. The moment that a decision as to 
culture becomes a matter of personal feeling, agreement is im- 
possible. The most highly developed man will be he who holds 
the same views as oneself as to the respective duties of ruler and 
subjects ; while the unfortunate people who happen to think 
differently will be barbarians and savages. No one, I suppose, 
will question the logic of this, or dispute that a system that can 

F 8i 


lead to such a conclusion is, to say the least of it, very incom- 

For my own part, Guizot's definition seems to me inferior even 
to that given by William von Humboldt : " Civilization is the 
humanizing of peoples both in their outward customs and institu- 
tions, and in the inward feelings that correspond to these."* 

The defect here is the exact opposite of that which I have 
ventured to find in Guizot's formula. The cord is too loose, the 
field of application too wide. If civilization is acquired merely 
by softness of temper, more than one very primitive tribe will have 
the right to claim it in preference to some European nation that 
may be rather rough in its character. There are some tribes, in 
the islands of the South Pacific Ocean and elsewhere, which are 
very mild and inoffensive, very easy of approach ; and yet no 
one, even while praising them, has ever dreamed of setting them 
above the surly Norwegians, or even at the side of the ferocious 
Malays, who are clad in flaming robes made by themselves, who 
sail the seas in ships they have cleverly built with their own 
hands, and are the terror, and at the same time the most in- 
telligent agents, of the carrying trade to the Eastern ports of the 
Indian Ocean. So eminent a thinker as von Humboldt could not 
fail to see this ; by the side, therefore, of civilization, and just one 
grade above it, he places culture. " By culture," he says, "a 
people which is already humanized in its social relations attains 
to art and science." 

According to this hierarchy, we find the second age of the 
world f filled with affectionate and sympathetic beings, poets, 
artists, and scholars. These, however, in their own nature, 
stand outside the grosser forms of work ; they are as aloof from 
the hardships of war as they are from tilling the soil or practising 
the ordinary trades. 

The leisure-time allowed for the exercise of the pure intellect 
is very small, even in times of the greatest happiness and stability ; 

* W. von Humboldt, Uber die Kawi-sprache auf der Insel Java, Intro- 
duction, vol. i, p. 37. 

I I.e. the world in its second stage of improvement. 



and there is an incessant struggle going on with Nature and the 
laws of the universe to gain even the bare means of subsistence. 
This being so, we can easily see that our Berlin philosopher is less 
concerned with describing realities than with taking certain 
abstractions which seem to him great and beautiful (as indeed 
they are) , endowing them with life, and making them act and 
move in a sphere as ideal as they are themselves. Any doubts 
that might remain on this point are soon dispelled when we come 
to the culminating-point of the system, which consists of a third 
grade, higher than the others. Here stands the " completely 
formed man," in whose nature is " something at once higher and 
more personal, a way of looking at the universe by which all the 
impressions gathered from the intellectual and moral forces 
at work around him are welded harmoniously together and taken 
up into his character and sensibility." 

In this rather elaborate series the first stage is thus the 
" civilized man," that is, the softened or humanized man ; 
the next is the " cultured man," the poet, artist, and scholar, 
and the last is the highest point of development of which our 
species is capable, the " completely formed man," — of whom 
(if I understand the doctrine aright) we can gain an exact idea 
from what we are told of Goethe and his " Olympian calm." 
The principle at the base of this theory is merely the vast difference 
which von Humboldt sees between the general level of a people's 
civilization and the stage of perfection reached by a few great 
individuals. This difference is so great that civilizations quite 
foreign to our own — that of the Brahmans, for instance — have 
been able, so far as we know, to produce men far superior in some 
ways to those that are most admired among ourselves. 

I quite agree with von Humboldt on this point. It is quite 
true that our European society gives us neither the most sublime 
thinkers, nor the greatest poets, nor even the cleverest artists. 
I venture to think, however, in spite of the great scholar's opinion, 
that, in order to define and criticize civilization generally, we must, 
if only for a moment, be careful to shake off our prejudices with 
regard to the details of some particular type. We must not cast 




our net so widely as to include the man in von Humboldt's first 
stage, whom I refuse to call civilized merely because he happens 
to be mild in character. On the other hand we must not be so 
narrow as to reject every one but the philosopher of the third 
stage. This would limit too strictly the scope of all human 
endeavour after progress, and present its results as merely 
isolated and individual. 

Von Humboldt's system does honour to the width and subtlety 
of a noble mind, and may be compared, in its essentially abstract 
nature, with the frail worlds, imagined by the Hindu philosophers, 
which are born from the brain of a sleeping god, rise into the 
aether like the rainbow-coloured bubbles blown by a child, and 
then break and give place to others according to the dreams 
that lightly hover round the Divine slumber. 

The nature of my investigations keeps me on a lower and 
more prosaic level ; I wish to arrive at results that are a little 
more within the range of practical experience. The restricted 
angle of my vision forbids me to consider, as Guizot does, the 
measure of prosperity enjoyed by human societies, or to contem- 
plate, with von Humboldt, the high peaks on which a few great 
minds sit in solitary splendour ; my inquiries concern merely the 
amount of power, material as well as moral, that has been 
developed among the mass of a people. It has made me uneasy, 
I confess, to see two of the most famous men of the century 
losing themselves in by-ways ; and if I am to trust myself to 
follow a different road from theirs, I must survey my ground, 
and go back as far as possible for my premises, in order to reach 
my goal without stumbling. I must ask the reader to follow me 
with patience and attention through the winding paths in which 
I have to walk, and I will try to illuminate, as far as I can, the 
inherent obscurity of my subject. 

There is no tribe so degraded that we cannot discover in it 
the instinct to satisfy both its material and its moral needs. 
The first and most obvious difference between races lies in the 
various ways in which the two sides of this instinct are balanced. 
Among the most primitive peoples they are never of equal 

8 4 



intensity. In some, the sense of the physical need is uppermost, 
in others, the tendency to contemplation. Thus the brutish 
hordes of the yellow race seem to be dominated by the needs 
of the body, though they are not quite without gleams of a 
spiritual world. On the other hand to most of the negro tribes 
that have reached the same stage of development, action is less 
than thought, and the imagination gives a higher value to the 
things unseen than those that can be handled. From the point 
of view of civilization, I do not regard this as a reason for placing 
the negroes on a higher level ; for the experience of centuries 
shows that they are no more capable of being civilized than the 
others. Ages have passed without their doing anything to 
improve their condition ; they are all equally powerless to mingle 
act and idea in sufficient strength to burst their prison walls 
and emerge from their degradation. But even in the lowest 
stages of human progress I always find this twofold stream of 
instinct, in which now one, now the other current predominates ; 
and I will try to trace its path as I go up the scale of civilization. 
Above the Samoyedes, as above some of the Polynesian negroes, 
come the tribes that are not quite content with a hut made of 
branches or with force as the only social relation, but desire 
something better. These tribes are raised one step above 
absolute barbarism. If they belong to those races to whom 
action is more than thought, we shall see them improving their 
tools, their arms, and their ornaments, setting up a government 
in which the warriors are more important than the priests, 
developing ideas of exchange, and already showing a fair aptitude 
for commerce. Their wars will still be cruel, but will tend more 
and more to become mere pillaging expeditions ; in fact, material 
comfort and physical enjoyment will be the main aim of the people. 
I find this picture realized in many of the Mongolian tribes ; 
also, in a higher form, among the Quichuas and Aymaras of Peru. 
The opposite condition, involving a greater detachment from 
mere bodily needs, will be found among the Dahomeys of West 
Africa, and the Kaffirs. 

I now continue the journey upwards, and leave the groups in 



which the social system is not strong enough to impose itself 
over a large population, even after a fusion of blood. I pass to 
those in which the racial elements are so strong that they grip 
fast everything that comes within their reach, and draw it into 
themselves ; they found over immense tracts of territory a 
supreme dominion resting on a basis of ideas and actions that 
are more or less perfectly co-ordinated. For the first time we 
have reached what can be called a civilization. The same 
internal differences that I brought out in the first two stages 
appear in the third ; they are in fact far more marked than before, 
as it is only in this third stage that their effects are of any real 
importance. From the moment when an assemblage of men, 
which began as a mere tribe, has so widened the horizon of its 
social relations as to merit the name of a people, we see one of 
the two currents of instinct, the material and the intellectual, 
flowing with greater force than before, according as the separate 
groups, now fused together, were originally borne along by one 
or the other. Thus, different results will follow, and different 
qualities of a nation will come to the surface, according as the 
power of thought or that of action is dominant. We may use 
here the Hindu symbolism, and represent what I call the " in- 
tellectual current " by Prakriti, the female principle, and the 
" material current " by Purusha, the male principle. There is, 
of course, no blame or praise attaching to either of these phrases ; 
they merely imply that the one principle is fertilized by the 
Further, we can see, at some periods of a people's existence, 
a strong oscillation between the two principles, one of which 
alternately prevails over the other. These changes depend on 
the mingling of blood that inevitably takes place at various times. 
Their consequences are very important, and sensibly alter the 
character of the civilization by impairing its stability. 

I can thus divide peoples into two classes, as they come pre- 

* Klemm (Allgemeine Kulturgeschichte der Menschheit) divides the races 
of men into " active " and " passive." I do not know his book, and so 
cannot tell if his idea agrees with my own. But it is natural that if we 
follow the same path we should light upon the same truth. 



dominantly under the action of one or other of these currents ; 
though the division is, of course, in no way absolute. At the 
head of the " male " category I put the Chinese ; the Hindus 
being the prototype of the opposite class. 

After the Chinese come most of the peoples of ancient Italy, 
the Romans of the Early Republic, and the Germanic tribes. 
In the opposite camp are ranged the nations of Egypt and 
Assyria. They take their place behind the men of Hindustan. 

When we follow the nations down the ages, we find that the 
civilization of nearly all of them has been modified by their 
oscillation between the two principles. The peoples of Northern 
China were at first almost entirely materialistic. By a gradual 
fusion with tribes of different blood, especially those in the 
Yunnan, their outlook became less purely utilitarian. The 
reason why this development has been arrested, or at least has 
been very slow, for centuries past, is because the " male " con- 
stituents of the population are far greater in quantity than the 
slight " female " element in its blood. 

In Northern Europe the materialistic strain, contributed by the 
best of the Germanic tribes, has been continually strengthened 
by the influx of Celts and Slavs. But as the white peoples 
drifted more and more towards the south, the male influences 
gradually lost their force and were absorbed by an excess of 
female elements, which finally triumphed. We must allow some 
exceptions to this, for example in Piedmont and Northern Spain. 

Passing now to the other division, we see that the Hindus have 
in a high degree the feeling of the supernatural, that they are 
more given to meditation than to action. As their earliest 
conquests brought them mainly into contact with races organized 
along the same lines as themselves, the male principle could not 
be sufficiently developed among them. In such an environment 
their civilization was not able to advance on the material side 
as it had on the intellectual. We may contrast the ancient 
Romans, who were naturally materialistic, and only ceased to be 
so after a complete fusion with Greeks, Africans, and Orientals 
had changed their original nature and given them a totally new 

S 7 


temperament. The internal development of the Greeks resembled 
that of the Hindus. 

I conclude from such facts as these that every human activity, 
moral or intellectual, has its original source in one or other 
of these two currents, " male " or " female " ; and only the 
races which have one of these elements in abundance (without, 
of course, being quite destitute of the other) can reach, in 
their social life, a satisfactory stage of culture, and so attain to 




When a nation, belonging to either the male or female series, 
has the civilizing instinct so strongly that it can impose its laws 
on vast multitudes of men ; when it is so fortunate as to be able 
to satisfy their inner needs, and appeal to their hearts as well as 
their heads ; from this moment a culture is brought into being. 
This general appeal is the essential note of the civilizing instinct, 
and its greatest glory. This alone makes it a living and active 
force. The interests of individuals only flourish in isolation ; and 
social life always tends, to some extent, to mutilate them. For 
a system of ideas to be really fruitful and convincing, it must 
suit the particular ways of thought and feeling current among 
the people to whom it is offered. 

When some special point of view is accepted by the mass of 
a people as the basis of their legislation, it is really because it 
fulfils, in the main, their most cherished desires. The male 
nations look principally for material well-being, the female 
nations are more taken up with the needs of the imagination ; 
but, I repeat, as soon as the multitudes enrol them selvesunder 
a banner, or — to speak more exactly — as soon as a particular 
form of administration is accepted, a civilization is born. 

Another invariable mark of civilization is the need that is 
felt for stability. This follows immediately from what I have 
said above ; for the moment that men have admitted, as a 
community, that some special principle is to govern and unite 
them, and have consented to make individual sacrifices to bring 
this about, their first impulse is to respect the governing principle 



— as much for what it brings as for what it demands — and to 
declare it unshakable. The purer a race keeps its blood, the 
less will its social foundations be liable to attack ; for the general 
wa3^ of thought will remain the same. Yet the desire for stability 
cannot be entirely satisfied for long. The admixture of blood 
will be followed by some modifications in the fundamental ideas 
of the people, and these again by an itch for change in the building 
itself. Such change will sometimes mean real progress, especially 
in the dawn of a civilization, when the governing principle is 
usually rigid and absolute, owing to the exclusive predominance 
of some single race. Later, the tinkering will become incessant, 
as the mass is more heterogeneous and loses its singleness of aim ; 
and the community will not always be able to congratulate itself 
on the result. So long, however, as it remains under the guidance 
of the original impulse, it will not cease, while holding fast to the 
idea of bettering its condition, to follow a chimera of stability. 
Fickle, unstable, changing every hour, it yet thinks itself eternal, 
and marches on, as towards some goal in Paradise. It clings to 
the doctrine (even while continually denying it in practice) that 
one of the chief marks of civilization is to borrow a part of God's 
immutability for the profit of man. When the likeness obviously 
does not exist, it takes courage, and consoles itself by the con- 
viction that soon, at any rate, it will attain to the Divine attribute. 
By the side of stability, and the co-operation of individual 
interests, which touch each other without being destroyed, we 

fmust put a third and a fourth characteristic of civilization, 
sociability, and the hatred of violence — in other words the demand 
that the head, and not the fists, shall be used for self-defence. 

These last two features are the source of all mental improvement, 
and so of all material progress ; it is to these especially that we 
look for the evidence as to whether a society is advanced or not.* 

* It is also in connexion with these that we find the main cause of the 
false judgments passed on foreign peoples. Because the externals of 
their civilization are unlike the corresponding parts of our own, we are 
often apt to infer hastily that they are either barbarians or of less worth 
than ourselves. Nothing could be more superficial, and so more doubtful, 
than a conclusion drawn from such premises. 



I think I may now sum up my view of civilization by denning 
it as a state of relative stability, where the mass of men try to satisfy 
their wants by peaceful means, and are refined in their conduct and 

In this formula are comprised all the peoples whom I have 
mentioned up to now as being civilized, whether they belong to 
one or the other class. Assuming that the conditions are fulfilled, 
we must now inquire whether all civilizations are equal. I think 
not. The social needs of the chief peoples are not felt with the 
same intensity or directed towards the same objects ; thus their 
conduct and intelligence will show great differences in kind, as 
well as in degree. What are the material needs of the Hindu ? 
Rice and butter for his food, and a linen cloth for his raiment. 
We may certainly be tempted to ascribe this simplicity to con- 
ditions of climate. But the Tibetans live in a very severe climate, 
and are yet most remarkable for their abstinence. The main 
interest of both these peoples is in their religious and philosophical 
development, in providing for the very insistent demands of the 
mind and the spirit. Thus there is no balance kept between the 
male and female principles. The scale is too heavily weighted 
on the intellectual side, the consequence being that almost all the 
work done under this civilization is exclusively devoted to the one 
end, to the detriment of the other. Huge monuments, mountains 
of stone, are chiselled and set up, at a cost of toil and effort that 
staggers the imagination. Colossal buildings cover the ground — 
and with what object ? to honour the gods. Nothing is made 
for man — except perhaps the tombs. By the side of the marvels 
produced by the sculptor, literature, with no less vigour, creates 
her masterpieces. The theology, the metaphysics, are as varied 
as they are subtle and ingenious, and man's thought goes down, 
without flinching, into the immeasurable abyss. In lyric poetry 
feminine civilization is the pride of humanity. 

But when I pass from the kingdom of ideals and visions to that 
of the useful inventions, and the theoretical sciences on which 
they rest, I fall at once from the heights into the depths, and the 
brilliant day gives place to night. Useful discoveries are rare ; 



the few that appear are petty and sterile ; the power of observa- 
tion practically does not exist. While the Chinese were con- 
tinually inventing, the Hindus conceived a few ideas, which they 
did not take the trouble to work out. Again the Greeks had, 
as we know from their literature, many scientific notions that 
were unworthy of them ; while the Romans, after passing the 
culminating-point in their history, could not advance very far, 
although they did more than the Greeks ; for the mixture of 
Asiatic blood, that absorbed them with startling rapidity, denied 
them the qualities which are indispensable for a patient in- 
vestigation of nature. Yet their administrative genius, their 
legislation, and the useful buildings that were set up throughout 
the Empire are a sufficient witness to the positive nature of their 
social ideas at a certain period ; they prove that if Southern 
Europe had not been so quickly covered by the continual stream 
of colonists from Asia and Africa, positive science would have 
won the day, and the Germanic pioneers would, in consequence, 
have lost a few of their laurels. 

The conquerors of the fifth century brought into Europe a 
spirit of the same order as that of the Chinese, but with very 
different powers. It was equipped, to a far greater extent, 
with the feminine qualities, and united the two motive-forces far 
more harmoniously. Wherever this branch of the human family 
was dominant, the utilitarian tendencies, though in a nobler form, 
are unmistakable. In England, North America, Holland, and 
Hanover, they override the other instincts of the people. It is 
the same in Belgium, and also in the north of France, where there 
is always a wonderfully quick comprehension of anything with 
a practical bearing. As we go further south these tendencies 
become weaker. This is not due to the fiercer action of the sun, 
for the Catalans and the Piedmontese certainly live in a hotter 
climate than the men of Provence or Bas-Languedoc ; the sole 
cause is the influence of blood. 

The female or feminized races occupy the greater part of the 
globe, and, in particular, the greater part of Europe. With the 
exception of the Teutonic group and some of the Slavs, all the 



races in our part of the world have the material instincts only in 
a slight degree ; they have already played their parts in former 
ages and cannot begin again. The masses, in their infinite 
gradations from Gaul to Celtiberian, from Celtiberian to the 
nameless mixture of Italians and other Latin races, form a 
descending scale, so far as the chief powers (though not all the 
powers) of the male principle are concerned. 

Our civilization has been created by the mingling of the 
Germanic tribes with the races of the ancient world, the union, 
that is to say, of pre-eminently male groups with races and 
fragments of races clinging to the decayed remnants of the 
ancient ideas. The richness, variety, and fertility of invention 
for which we honour our modern societies, are the natural, and 
more or less successful, result of the maimed and disparate 
elements which our Germanic ancestors instinctively knew how 
to use, temper, and disguise. 

Our own kind of culture has two general marks, wherever it is 
found ; it has been touched, however superficially, by the 
Germanic element, and it is Christian. This second characteristic 
(to repeat what I have said already) is more marked than the 
other, and leaps first to the eye, because it is an outward feature 
of our modern State, a sort of varnish on its surface ; but it is 
not absolutely essential, as many nations are Christian — and 
still more might become Christian — without forming a part of 
our circle of civilization. The first characteristic is, on the 
contrary, positive and decisive. Where the Germanic element 
has never penetrated, our special kind of civilization does not 

This naturally brings me to the question whether we can call 
our European societies entirely civilized ; whether the ideas and 
actions that appear on the surface have the roots of their being 
deep down in the mass of the people, and therefore whether their 
effects correspond with the instincts of the greatest number. 
This leads to a further question : do the lower strata of our 
populations think and act in accordance with what we call 
European civilization ? 



Many have admired, and with good reason, the extraordinary 
unity of ideas and views that guided the whole body of citizens 
in the Greek states of the best period. The conclusions on every 
essential point were often hostile to each other ; but they all 
derived from the same source. In politics, some wanted more or 
less democracy, some more or less oligarchy. In religion, some 
chose to worship the Eleusinian Demeter, others Athene Parthe- 
nos. As a matter of literary taste, ^Eschylus might be preferred 
to Sophocles, Alcaeus to Pindar. But, at bottom, the ideas dis- 
cussed were all such as we might call national ; the disputes 
turned merely on points of proportion. The same was the case 
at Rome, before the Punic Wars ; the civilization of the country 
was uniform and unquestioned. It reached the slave through the 
master ; all shared in it to a different extent, but none shared 
in any other. 

From the time of the Punic Wars among the Romans, and 
from that of Pericles, and especially of Philip, among the Greeks, 
this uniformity tended more and more to break down. The 
mixture of nations brought with it a mixture of civilizations. 
The result was a very complex and learned society, with a culture 
far more refined than before. But it had one striking dis- 
advantage ; both in Italy and in Hellas, it existed merely for 
the upper classes, the lower strata being left quite ignorant of 
its nature, its merits, and its aims. Roman civilization after 
the great Asiatic wars was, no doubt, a powerful manifestation 
of human genius ; but it really embraced none but the Greek 
rhetoricians who supplied its philosophical basis, the Syrian 
lawyers who built up for it an atheistic legal system, the rich 
men who were engaged in public administration or money-making, 
and finally the leisured voluptuaries who did nothing at all. 
By the masses it was, at all times, merely tolerated. The peoples 
of Europe understood nothing of its Asiatic and African elements, 
those of Egypt had no better idea of what it brought them from 
Gaul and Spain, those of Numidia had no appreciation of what 
came to them from the rest of the world. Thus, below what 
| we might call the social classes, lived innumerable multitudes 



who had a different civilization from that of the official world, or 
were not civilized at all. Only the minority of the Roman people 
held the secret, and attached any importance to it. We have 
here the example of a civilization that is accepted and dominant, 
no longer through the convictions of the peoples who live under 
it, but by their exhaustion, their weakness, and their indifference. 

In China we find the exact contrary. The territory is of course 
immense, but from one end to the other there is the same spirit 
among the native Chinese — I leave the rest out of account—- 
and the same grasp of their civilization. Whatever its principles 
may be, whether we approve of its aims or not, we must admit 
that the part played by the masses in their civilization shows 
how well they understand it. The reason is not that the country 
is free in our sense, that a democratic feeling of rivalry impels all 
to do their best in order to secure a position guaranteed them by 
law. Not at all ; I am not trying to paint an ideal picture. 
Peasants and middle classes alike have little hope, in the Middle 
Kingdom at any rate, of rising by sheer force of merit. In this 
part of the Empire, in spite of the official promises with regard to 
the system of examinations by which the public services are filled, 
no one doubts that the places are all reserved for members of the 
official families, and that the decision of the professors is often 
affected more by money than by scholarship ; * but though ship- 
wrecked ambitions may bewail the evils of the system, they do 
not imagine that there could be a better one, and the existing 
state of things is the object of unshakable admiration to the 
whole people. 

Education in China is remarkably general and widespread ; 
it extends to classes considerably below those which, in France, 

* " It is still only in China that a poor student can offer himself for 
the Imperial examination and come out a great man. This is a splendid 
feature of the social organization of the Chinese, and their theory is cer- 
tainly better than any other. Unfortunately, its application is far from 
perfect. I am not here referring to the errors of judgment and corruption 
on the part of the examiners, or even to the sale of literary degrees, an 
expedient to which the Government is sometimes driven in times of 
financial stress ..." (F. J. Mohl, <' Annual Report of the Societe Asiatique," 



might conceivably feel the want of it. The cheapness of books,* 
the number and the low fees of the schools, bring a certain 
measure of education within the reach of everybody. The aims 
and spirit of the laws are generally well understood, and the 
government is proud of having made legal knowledge accessible 
to all. There is a strong instinct of repulsion against radical 
changes in the Government. A very trustworthy critic on this 
point, Mr. John F. Davis, the British Commissioner in China, 
who has not only lived in Canton but has studied its affairs 
with the closest application, says that the Chinese are a people 
whose history does not show a single attempt at a social revolu- 
tion, or any alteration in the outward forms of power. In 
his opinion, they are best described as " a nation of steady 

The contrast is very striking, when we turn to the civilization 
of the Roman world, where changes of government followed each 
other with startling rapidity right up to the coming of the 
northern peoples. Everywhere in this great society, and at every 
time, we can find populations so detached from the existing 
order as to be ready for the wildest experiments. Nothing was 
left untried in this long period, no principle respected. Property, 
religion, the family were all called in question, and many, both 
in the North and South, were inclined to put the novel theories 
into practice. Absolutely nothing in the Grasco-Roman world 
rested on a solid foundation, not even the unity of the Empire, 
so necessary one would think for the general safety. Further, 
it was not only the armies, with their hosts of improvised Caesars, 
who were continually battering at this Palladium of society ; 
the emperors themselves, beginning with Diocletian, had so little 
belief in the monarchy, that they established of their own accord 
a division of power. At last there were four rulers at once. 

* John F. Davis, "The Chinese" (London, 1840): "Three or four 
volumes of any ordinary work of the octavo size and shape may be had 
for a sum equivalent to two shillings. A Canton bookseller's manuscript 
catalogue marked the price of the four books of Confucius, including the 
commentary, at a price rather under half-a-crown. The cheapness of 
their common literature is occasioned partly by the mode of printing, but 
partly also by the low price of paper." 



Not a single institution, not a single principle, was fixed, in this 
unhappy society, which had no better reason for continuing to 
exist than the physical impossibility of deciding on which rock 
it should founder ; until the moment came when it was crushed 
in the vigorous arms of the North, and forced at last to become 
something definite. 

Thus we find a complete opposition between these two great 
societies, the Celestial and the Roman Empires. To the civiliza- 
tion of Eastern Asia I will add that of the Brahmans, which is 
also of extraordinary strength and universality. If in China 
every one, or nearly every one, has reached a certain level of 
knowledge, the same is the case among the Hindus. Each man, 
according to his caste, shares in a spirit that has lasted for ages, 
and knows exactly what he ought to learn, think, and believe. 
Among the Buddhists of Tibet and other parts of Upper Asia, 
nothing is rarer than a peasant who cannot read. Every one has 
similar convictions on the important matters of life. 

Do we find the same uniformity among Europeans ? The 
question is not worth asking. The Grseco-Roman civilization 
has no definitely marked colour, either throughout the nations 
as a whole, or even within the same people. I need not speak 
of Russia or most of the Austrian States ; the proof would be 
too easy. But consider Germany or Italy (especially South 
Italy) ; Spain shows a similar picture, though in fainter lines ; 
France is in the same position as Spain. 

Take the case of France. I will not confine myself to the 
fact, which always strikes the most superficial observer, that 
between Paris and the rest of France there is an impassable 
gulf, and that at the very gates of the capital a new nation begins, 
which is quite different from that living within the walls. On 
this point there is no room for doubt, and those who base their 
conclusions, as to the unity of ideas and the fusion of blood, on 
the formal unity of our Government, are under a great illusion. 

Not a single social law or root-principle of civilization is 
understood in the same way in all our departments. I do not 
refer merely to the peoples of Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, 

G 97 


Limousin, Gascony, and Provence ; every one knows how little 
one is like the other, and how they vary in their opinions. The 
important point is that, while in China, Tibet, and India the ideas 
essential to the maintenance of civilization are familiar to all 
classes, this is not at all the case among ourselves. The most 
elementary and accessible facts are sealed mysteries to most of 
our rural populations, who are absolutely indifferent to them ; 
ior usually they can neither read nor write, and have no wish 
to learn. They cannot see the use of such knowledge, nor the 
possibility of applying it. In such a matter, I put no trust in 
the promises of the law, or the fine show made by institutions, 
but rather in what I have seen for myself, and in the reports of 
careful observers. Different governments have made the most 
praiseworthy attempts to raise the peasants from their ignorance ; 
not only are the children given every opportunity for being 
educated in their villages, but even adults, who are made con- 
scripts at twenty, find in the regimental schools an excellent 
system of instruction in the most necessary subjects. Yet, 
in spite of these provisions, and the fatherly anxiety of the 
Government, in spite of the compelle intrare * which it is con- 
tinually dinning into the ears of its agents, the agricultural 
classes learn nothing whatever. Like all those who have lived 
in the provinces, I have seen how parents never send their 
children to school without obvious reluctance, how they regard 
the hours spent there as a mere waste of time, how they with- 
draw them at once on the slightest pretext and never allow the 
compulsory number of years to be extended. Once he leaves 
school, the young man's first duty is to forget what he has learnt. 
This is, to a certain extent, a point of honour with him ; and 
his example is followed by the discharged soldiers, who, in many 
parts of France, are not only ashamed of having learnt to read 
and write, but even affect to forget their own language, and often 
succeed in doing so. Hence I could more easily approve all the 
generous efforts that have been so fruitlessly made to educate our 
rural populations, if I were not convinced that the knowledge 
* " Force them to enter." 

9 8 


put before them is quite unsuitable, and that at the root of their 
apparent indifference there is a feeling of invincible hostility 
to our civilization. One proof lies in their attitude of passive 
resistance ; but the spectre of another and more convincing 
argument appears before me, as soon as I see any instance of 
this obstinacy being overcome, under apparently favourable 
circumstances. In some respects the attempts at education are 
succeeding better than before. In our eastern departments and 
the great manufacturing towns there are many workmen who 
learn of their own accord to read and write. They live in a 
circle where such knowledge is obviously useful. But as soon as 
they have a sufficient grasp of the rudiments, how do they use 
them ? Generally as a means of acquiring ideas and feelings 
which are now no longer instinctively, but actively, opposed to 
the social order. The only exception is to be found in the 
agricultural and even the industrial population of the North-west, 
where knowledge up to an elementary point is far more wide- 
spread than in any other part, and where it is not only retained 
after the school time is over, but is usually made to serve a good 
end. As these populations have much more affinity than the 
others to the Germanic race, I am not surprised at the result. 
We see the same phenomenon in Belgium and the Netherlands. 
If we go on to consider the fundamental beliefs and opinions 
of the people, the difference becomes still more marked. With 
regard to the beliefs we have to congratulate the Christian 
religion on not being exclusive or making its dogmas too narrow. 
If it had, it would have struck some very dangerous shoals. 
The bishops and the clergy have to struggle, as they have done for 
these five, ten, fifteen centuries, against the stream of hereditary 
tendencies and prejudices, which are the more formidable as they 
are hardly even admitted, and so can neither be fought nor con- 
quered. There is no enlightened priest who does not know, after 
his mission-work in the villages, the deep cunning with which 
even the religious peasant will continue to cherish, in his inmost 
heart, some traditional idea that comes to the surface only at 
rare moments, in spite of himself. His complete confidence 



in his parish priest just stops short of what we might call his 
secret religion. Does he mention it to him ? he denies it, 
will admit no discussion, and will not budge an inch from his 
convictions. This is the reason of the taciturnity that, in every 
province, is the main attitude of the peasant in face of the middle 
classes ; it raises too an insuperable barrier between him and 
even the most popular landowners in his canton. With this 
view of civilization on the part of the majority of the people 
who are supposed to be most deeply attached to it, I can well 
believe that an approximate estimate of ten millions within our 
circle of culture, and twenty-six millions outside it, would be, 
if anything, an under-statement. 

If our rural populations were merely brutal and ignorant, 
we might not take much notice of this cleavage, but console 
ourselves with the delusive hope of gradually winning them over, 
and absorbing them in the multitudes that are already civilized. 
But these peasants are like certain savage tribes : at first sight 
they seem brutish and unthinking, for they are outwardly self- 
effacing and humble. But if one digs even a little beneath the 
surface, into their real life, one finds that their isolation is 
voluntary, and comes from no feeling of weakness. Their likes 
and dislikes are not a matter of chance ; everything obeys a 
logical sequence of definite ideas. When I spoke just now of 
religion, I might also have pointed out how very far removed 
our moral doctrines are from those of the peasants,* what a 
different sense they give to the word delicacy, how obstinately 
they cling to their custom of regarding every one who is not of 
peasant stock in the same way as the men of remote antiquity 
viewed the foreigner. It is true they do not murder him, 
thanks to the strange and mysterious terror inspired by laws 
they have not themselves made ; but they do not conceal their 

* A nurse of Touraine put a bird into the hands of the three-year-old 
boy of whom she was in charge, and encouraged him to pull out its wings 
and feathers. When the parents blamed her for teaching such wickedness, 
she replied, "It is to make him proud." This answer, given in 1847, 
goes back directly to the educational maxims in vogue at the time of 




hatred and distrust of him, and they take great pleasure in 
annoying him, if they can do it without risk. Does this mean 
that they are ill-natured ? No, not among themselves — we 
may continually see them doing each .other little kindnesses. 
They simply look on themselves as a race apart, a race (if we 
may believe them) which is weak and oppressed, and obliged to 
deal crookedly, but which also keeps its stiff-necked and con- 
temptuous pride. In some of our provinces the workman thinks 
himself of far better blood and older stock than his former master. 
Family pride, in some of the peasants, is at least equal to that 
of the nobility of the Middle Ages.* 

We cannot doubt it ; the lower strata of the French people 
have very little in common with the surface. They form an 
abyss over which civilization is suspended, and the deep stagnant 
waters, sleeping at the bottom of the gulf, will one day show 
their power of dissolving all that comes in their way. The most 
tragic crises of her history have deluged the country with blood, 
without the agricultural population playing any part except 
that which was forced on it. Where its immediate interests 
were not engaged, it let the storms pass by without troubling 
itself in the least. Those who are astonished and scandalized 
by such callousness say that the peasant is essentially immoral — 
which is both unjust and untrue. The peasants look on us 
almost in the light of enemies. They understand nothing of 
our civilization, they share in it unwillingly, and think themselves 

* A very few years ago there was a question of electing a churchwarden 
in a little obscure parish of French Brittany, that part of the old province 
which the true Bretons call the "Welsh," or "foreign," country. The 
church council, composed of peasants, deliberated for two days without 
being able to make up their minds ; for the candidate before them, though 
rich and well esteemed as a good man and a good Christian, was a 
"foreigner." The council would not move from its opinion, although 
the " foreigner's " father, as well as himself, had been born in the district ; 
it was still remembered that his grandfather, who had been dead for 
many years and had never known any member of the council, was an 
immigrant from another part of the country. The daughter of a peasant- 
proprietor makes a mesdlliance if she marries a tailor or a miller or even 
a farmer, if he works for wages. It does not matter whether the husband 
is richer than she is ; her crime is often punished, just the same, by a 
father's curse. Is not this case exactly like that of the churchwarden ? 



justified in profiting, as far as they can, by its misfortunes. If 
we put aside this antagonism, which is sometimes active but 
generally inert, we need not hesitate to allow them some high 
moral qualities, however strangely these may, at times, be 

I may apply to the whole of Europe what I have just said of 
France, and conclude that modern civilization includes far more 
than it absorbs ; in this it resembles the Roman Empire. Hence 
one cannot be confident that our state of society will last ; and 
I see a clear proof of this in the smallness of its hold even over the 
classes raised a little above the country population. Our civiliza- 
tion may be compared to the temporary islands thrown up in the 
sea by submarine volcanoes. Exposed as they are to the destruc- 
tive action of the currents, and robbed of the forces that first 
kept them in position, they will one day break up, and their 
fragments will be hurled into the gulf of the all-conquering 
waves. It is a sad end, and one which many noble races before 
ourselves have had to meet. The blow cannot be turned aside ; 
it is inevitable. The wise man may see it coming, but can do 
nothing more. The most consummate statesmanship is not able 
for one moment to counteract the immutable laws of the world. 

But though thus unknown, despised, or hated by the majority 
of those who live under its shadow, our civilization is yet one of 
the most glorious monuments ever erected by the genius of man. 
It is certainly not distinguished by its power of invention ; but 
putting this aside, we may say that it has greatly developed 
the capacity for understanding, and so for conquest. To mistake 
nothing is to take everything. If it has not founded the " exact 
sciences," it has at least made them exact, and freed them from 
errors to which, curiously enough, they were more liable than any 
other branch of knowledge. Thanks to its discoveries, it knows 
the material world better than all the societies which have gone 
before. It has guessed some of its chief laws, it can describe 
and explain them, and borrow from them a marvellous strength 
that passes a hundredfold the strength of a man. Little by little, 
by a skilful use of induction, it has reconstructed large periods 



of history of which the ancients never suspected the existence. 
The further we are from primitive times, the more clearly can we 
see them, and penetrate their mysteries. This is a great point of 
superiority, and one which we must, in fairness, allow to our 

But when we have admitted this, should we be right in con- 
cluding, as is usually done, without reflexion, that it is superior 
to all the civilizations that have ever existed, and to all those 
that exist at the present day ? Yes and no. Yes, because the 
extreme diversity of its elements allows it to rest on a powerful 
basis of comparison and analysis, and so to assimilate at once 
almost anything ; yes, because this power of choice is favourable 
to its development in many different directions ; yes again, 
because, thanks to the impulse of the Germanic element (which is 
too materialistic to be a destructive force) it has made itself a 
morality, the wise prescriptions of which were generally unknown 
before. If, however, we carry this idea of its greatness so far 
as to regard it as having an absolute and unqualified superiority, 
then I say no, the simple fact being that it excels in practically 
nothing whatever. 

In politics, we see it in bondage to the continual change brought 
about by the different requirements of the races which it includes. 
In England, Holland, Naples, and Russia, its principles are still 
fairly stable, because the populations are more homogeneous, 
or at any rate form groups of the same kind, with similar instincts. 
But everywhere else, especially in France, Central Italy, and 
Germany — where variations of race are infinite — theories of 
government can never rise to the rank of accepted truths, and 
political science is a matter of continual experiment. As our 
civilization is unable to have any sure confidence in itself, it is 
without the stability that is one of the most important qualities 
mentioned in my definition. This weakness is to be found 
neither in the Buddhist and Brahman societies, nor in the 
Celestial Empire ; and these civilizations have in this respect an 
advantage over ours. The whole people is at one in its political 
beliefs. When there is a wise government, and the ancient 



institutions are bearing good fruit, every one is glad. When they 
are in clumsy hands, and injure the commonwealth, they are 
pitied by the citizens as a man pities himself ; but they never 
cease to be respected. There is sometimes a desire to purify 
them, but never to sweep them away or replace them by others. 
It does not need very keen eyes to see here a guarantee of long 
life which our civilization is very far from possessing. 

In art, our inferiority to India, as well as to Egypt, Greece, 
and America, is very marked. Neither in sublimity nor beauty 
have we anything to compare with the masterpieces of antiquity. 
When our day has drawn to its close, and the ruins of our towns 
and monuments cover the face of the land, the traveller will 
discover nothing, in the forests and marshes that will skirt the 
Thames, the Seine, and the Rhine, to rival the gorgeous ruins of 
Philse, Nineveh, Athens, Salsette, and the valley of Tenochtitlan. 
If future ages have something to learn from us in the way of 
positive science, this is not the case with poetry, as is clearly 
proved by the despairing admiration that we so justly feel for 
the intellectual wonders of foreign civilizations. 

So far as the refinement of manners is concerned, we have 
obviously changed for the worse. This is shown by our own 
past history ; there were periods when luxury, elegance, and 
sumptuousness were understood far better and practised on 
a far more lavish scale than to-day. Pleasure was certainly 
confined to a smaller number. Comparatively few were in what 
we should call a state of well-being. On the other hand, if we 
admit (as we must) that refinement of manners elevates the 
minds of the multitudes who look on, as well as ennobling the 
life of a few favoured individuals, that it spreads a varnish of 
beauty and grandeur over the whole country, and that these 
become the common inheritance of all — then our civilization, 
which is essentially petty on its external side, cannot be compared 
to its rivals. 

I may add, finally, that the active element distinguishing 
any civilization is identical with the most striking quality, what- 
ever it may be, of the dominant race. The civilization is modified 



and transformed according to the changes undergone by this race, 
and when the race itself has disappeared, carries on for some time 
the impulse originally received from it. Thus the kind of order 
kept in any society is the best index to the special capacities 
of the people and to the stage of progress to which they have 
attained : it is the clearest mirror in which their individuality 
can be reflected. 

I see that the long digression, into which I have strayed, has 
carried me further than I expected. I do not regret it, for it has 
enabled me to vent certain ideas that the reader might well keep 
in mind. But it is now time to return to the main course of my 
argument, the chain of which is still far from being complete. 

I established first that the life or death of societies was the 
result of internal causes. I have said what these causes are, 
and described their essential nature, in order that they may be 
more easily recognized. I have shown that they are generally 
referred to a wrong source ; and in looking for some sign that 
could always distinguish them, and indicate their presence, I 
found it in the capacity to create a civilization. As it seemed 
impossible to discover a clear conception of this term, it was 
necessary to define it, as I have done. My next step must be to 
study the natural and unvarying phenomenon which I have 
identified as the latent cause of the life and death of societies. 
This, as I have said, consists in the relative worth of the different 
races. Logic requires me to make clear at once what I under- 
stand by the word race. This will be the subject of the following 




We must first discuss the word race in its physiological sense. 

A good many observers, who judge by first impressions and 
so take extreme views, assert that there are such radical and 
essential differences between human families that one must refuse 
them any identity of origin. t The writers who adhere to such a 
notion assume many other genealogies by the side of that from 
Adam. To them there is no original unity in the species, or 
rather there is no single species ; there are three or four, or even 
more, which produce perfectly distinct types, and these again 
have united to form hybrids. 

The supporters of this theory easily win belief by citing the 
clear and striking differences between certain human groups. 
When we see before us a man with a yellowish skin, scanty hair 
and beard, a large face, a pyramidal skull, small stature, thick-set 
limbs, and slanting eyes with the skin of the eyelids turned so 
much outwards that the eye will hardly open J — we recognize 
a very well-marked type, the main features of which it is easy to 
bear in mind. 

From him we turn to another — a negro from the West Coast 
of Africa, tall, strong-looking, with thick-set limbs and a tendency 
to fat. His colour is no longer yellowish, but entirely black ; 
his hair no longer thin and wiry, but thick, coarse, woolly, and 
luxuriant ; his lower jaw juts out, the shape of the skull is what 

* This chapter was, of course, written before the appearance of the 
"Origin of Species" or the "Descent of Man"; see author's preface. — 

| These views are quoted by Flourens (Eloge de Blumenbach, Mhnoire 
de I'Academie des Sciences), who himself dissents from them. 

I This and the other illustrations in this chapter are taken from 
Prichard, " Natural History of Man." 



is known as prognathous. " The long bones stand out, the front 
of the tibia and the fibula are more convex than in a European, 
the calves are very high and reach above the knee ; the feet are 
quite flat, and the heel-bone, instead of being arched, is almost 
in a straight line with the other bones of the foot, which is very 
large. The hand is similarly formed." 

When we look for a moment at an individual of this type, 
we are involuntarily reminded of the structure of the monkey, 
and are inclined to admit that the negro races of West Africa 
come from a stock that has nothing in common, except the human 
form, with the Mongolian. 

We come next to tribes whose appearance is still less flattering 
to the self-love of mankind than that of the Congo negro. Oceania 
has the special privilege of providing the most ugly, degraded, 
and repulsive specimens of the race, which seem to have been 
created with the express purpose of forming a link between man 
and the brute pure and simple. By the side of many Australian 
tribes, the African negro himself assumes a value and dignity, 
and seems to derive from a nobler source. In many of the 
wretched inhabitants of this New World, the size of the head, 
the extreme thinness of the limbs, the famished look of the body, 
are absolutely hideous. The hair is flat or wavy, and generally 
woolly, the flesh is black on a foundation of grey. 

When, after examining these types, taken from all the quarters 
of the globe, we finally come back to the inhabitants of Europe, 
and of South and West Asia, we find them so superior in beauty, 
in just proportion of limb and regularity of feature, that we are 
at once tempted to accept the conclusions of those who assert the 
multiplicity of races. Not only are these peoples more beautiful 
than the rest of mankind, which is, I confess, a pestilent con- 
gregation of ugliness ; * not only have they had the glory of 

* Meiners was so struck with the repulsive appearance of the greater 
part of humanity that he imagined a very simple system of classification, 
containing only two categories — the beautiful, namely the white race, 
and the ugly, which includes all the others (Grundriss der Geschichte der 
Menschheit). The reader will see that I have not thought it necessary 
to go through all the ethnological theories. I only mention the most 



giving the world such admirable types as a Venus, an Apollo, a 
Farnese Hercules ; but also there is a visible hierarchy of beauty 
established from ancient times even among themselves, and in 
this natural aristocracy the Europeans are the most eminent, 
by their grace of outline and strength of muscular developement. 
The most reasonable view appears to be that the families into 
which man is divided are as distinct as are animals of different 
species. Such was the conclusion drawn from simple observa- 
tion, and so long as only general facts were in question, it seemed 

Camper was one of the first to reduce these observations to 
some kind of system. He was no longer satisfied with merely 
superficial evidence, but wished to give his proofs a mathematical 
foundation ; he tried to define anatomically the differences 
between races. He succeeded in establishing a strict method 
that left no room for doubt, and his views gained the numerical 
accuracy without which there can be no science. His method 
was to take the front part of the skull and measure the inclination 
of the profile by means of two lines which he called the facial 
lines. Their intersection formed an angle, the size of which gave 
the degree of elevation attained by the race to which the skull 
belonged. One of these lines connected the base of the nose with 
the orifice of the ear ; the other was tangential to the most 
prominent part of the forehead and the jut of the upper jaw. 
On the basis of the angle thus formed, he constructed a scale 
including not only man but all kinds of animals. At the top 
stood the European ; and the more acute the angle, the further 
was the distance from the type which, according to Camper, was 
the most perfect. Thus birds and fishes showed smaller angles 
than the various mammals. A certain kind of ape reached 
42 , and even 50 . Then came the heads of the African negro and 
the Kalmuck, which touched 70 . The European stood at 8o°, 
and, to quote the inventor's own words, which are very flattering 
to our own type, " On this difference of io° the superior beauty 
of the European, what one might call his ' comparative beauty,' 
depends ; the ' absolute beauty ' that is so striking in some of the 



works of ancient sculpture, as in the head of Apollo and the 
Medusa of Sosicles, is the result of a still greater angle, amounting 
in this instance to ioo°."* 

This method was attractive by its simplicity. Unhappily, the 
facts are against it, as against so many systems. By a series 
of accurate observations, Owen showed that, in the case of 
monkeys, Camper had studied the skulls only of the young 
animals ; but since, in the adults, the growth of the teeth and 
jaws, and the development of the zygomatic arch, were not 
accompanied by a corresponding enlargement of the brain, the 
numerical difference between these and human skulls was much 
greater than Camper had supposed, since the facial angle of the 
black orang-outang or the highest type of chimpanzee was at most 
30 or 35°. From this to the 70 of the negro and the Kalmuck 
the gap was too great for Camper's scale to have any significance. 

Camper's theory made considerable use of phrenology. He 
attempted to discover a corresponding development of instinct 
as he mounted his scale from the animals to man. But here too 
the facts were against him. The elephant, for example, whose 
intelligence is certainly greater than the orang-outang's, has a 
far more acute facial angle ; and even the most docile and in 
telligent monkeys do not belong to the species which are 'the 
" highest" in Camper's series. 

Beside these two great defects, the method is very open to 
attack in that it does not apply to all the varieties of the human 
race. It leaves out of account the tribes with pyramidally 
shaped heads, who form, however, a striking division by them- 

Blumenbach, who held the field against his predecessor, 
elaborated a system in his turn ; this was to study a man's head 
from the top. He called his discovery norma verticalis, the 
" vertical method." He was confident that the comparison of 
heads according to their width brought out the chief differences 
in the general configuration of the skull. According to him, 
the study of this part of the body is so pregnant with results, 
* Prichard, op. cit. (2nd edition, 1845), p. 112. 



especially in its bearing on national character, that it is im- 
possible to measure all the differences merely by lines and angles ; 
to reach a satisfying basis of classification,';we must consider the 
heads from the point of view in which we can take in at one 
glance the greatest number of varieties. His idea was, in outline, 
as follows : " Arrange the skulls that you wish to compare in 
such a way that the jaw-bones are on the same horizontal line ; 
in other words, let each rest on its lower jaw. Then stand be- 
hind the skulls and fix the eye on the vertex of each. In this 
way you will best see the varieties of shape that have most to 
do with national character ; these consist either (i) in the direc- 
tion of the jaw-bone and maxillary, or (2) in the breadth or 
narrowness of the oval outline presented by the top half of 
the skull, or (3) in the flattened or vaulted form of the frontal 

Blumenbach's system resulted in the division of mankind into 
five main categories, which were in their turn subdivided into a 
certain number of types and classes. 

This classification was of very doubtful value. Like that of 
Camper, it overlooked many important characteristics. It was 
partly to escape such objections that Owen proposed to examine 
skulls, not from the top, but from the bottom. One of the chief 
results of this new method was to show such a strong and definite 
line of difference between a man and an orang-outang that it 
became for ever impossible to find the link that Camper imagined 
to exist between the two species. In fact, one glance at the two 
skulls, from Owen's point of view, is enough to bring out their 
radical difference. The diameter from front to back is longer in 
the orang-outang than in man ; the zygomatic arch, instead 
of being wholly in the front part of the base, is in the middle, 
and occupies just a third of its diameter. Finally the position 
of the occipital orifice, which has such a marked influence on 
general structure and habits, is quite different. In the skull of a 
man, it is almost at the centre of the base ; in that of an orang- 
outang, it is a sixth of the way from the hinder end.f 
* Prichard, p. 116. f Ibid - PP- "7-i& 



Owen's observations have, no doubt, considerable value ; I 
would prefer, however, the most recent of the craniological 
systems, which is at the same time, in many ways, the most 
ingenious, I mean that of the American scholar Morton, adopted 
by Carus.* In outline this is as follows : 

To show the difference of races, Morton and Carus started 
from the idea, that the greater the size of the skull, the higher the 
type to which the individual belonged, and they set out to in- 
vestigate whether the development of the skull is equal in all the 
human races. 

To solve this question, Morton took a certain number of heads 
belonging to whites, Mongols, negroes, and Redskins of North 
America. He stopped all the openings with cotton, except the 
foramen magnum, and completely filled the inside with carefully 
dried grains of pepper. He then compared the number of grains 
in each. This gave him the following table : 

Number of 









of grains. 

of grains. 

of grains. 

White races 





Yellow races 

/ Mongols . 
\ Malays 


















The results set down in the first two columns are certainly very 
curious. On the other hand, I attach little importance to those 
in the last two ; for if the extraordinary variations from the 
average in the second column are to have any real significance, 
Morton should have taken a far greater number of skulls, and 
further, have given details as to the social position of those to 
whom the skulls belonged. He was probably able to procure, 
in the case of the whites and the Redskins, heads which had 
belonged to men at any rate above the lowest level of society, 
while it is not likely that he had access to the skulls of negro 
* Carus, op. cit., from which the following details are taken. 



chiefs, or of Chinese mandarins. This explains how he has been 
able to assign the number ioo to an American Indian, while the 
most intelligent Mongol whom he has examined does not rise 
above 93, and is thus inferior even to the negro, who reaches 94. 
Such results are a mere matter of chance. They are quite in- 
complete and unscientific ; in such questions, however, one 
cannot be too careful to avoid judgments founded merely on 
individual cases. I am inclined therefore to reject altogether 
the second half of Morton's calculations. 

I must also question one detail in the other half. In the second 
column, there is a clear gradation from the number 87, indicating 
the capacity of the white man's skull, to the numbers 83 and 78 
for the yellow and black man respectively. But the figures 83, 
81, 82, for the Mongols, Malays, and Redskins, give average 
results which evidently shade into one another ; all the more so, 
because Carus does not hesitate to count the Mongols and Malays 
as the same race, and consequently to put the numbers 83 and 81 
together. But, in that case, why allow the number 82 to mark 
a distinct race, and thus create arbitrarily a fourth great division 
of mankind ? 

This anomaly, however, actually buttresses the weak point in 
Carus' system. He likes to think that, just as we see our planet 
pass through the four stages of day and night, evening and 
morning twilight, so there must be in the human species four sub- 
divisions corresponding to these. He sees here a symbol, which 
is always a temptation for a subtle mind. Carus yields to it, as 
many of his learned fellow-countrymen would have done in 
his place. The white races are the nations of the day ; the black 
those of the night ; the yellow those of the Eastern, and the red 
those of the Western twilight. We may easily guess the in- 
genious comparisons suggested by such a picture. Thus, the 
European nations, owing to the brilliance of their scientific 
knowledge and the clear outlines of their civilization, are obviously 
in the full glare of day, while the negroes sleep in the darkness 
of ignorance, and the Chinese live in a half-light that gives them 
an incomplete, though powerful, social development. As for 



the Redskins, who are gradually disappearing from the earth, 
where can we find a more beautiful image of their fate than the 
setting sun ? 

Unhappily, comparison is not proof, and by yielding too easily 
to this poetic impulse, Carus has a little damaged his fine theory. 
The same charge also may be levelled at this as at the other 
ethnological doctrines ; Carus does not manage to include in a 
systematic whole the various physiological differences between 
one race and another.* 

The supporters of the theory of racial unity have not failed 
to seize on this weak point, and to claim that, where we cannot 
arrange the observations on the shape of the skull in such a way 
as to constitute a proof of the original separation of types, we 
must no longer consider the variations as pointing to any radical 
difference, but merely regard them as the result of secondary and 
isolated causes, with no specific relevance. 

The cry of victory may be raised a little too soon. It may 
be hard to find the correct method, without being necessarily 
impossible. The " unitarians," however, do not admit this 
reservation. They support their view by observing that certain 
tribes that belong to the same race show a very different physical 
type. They cite, for instance, the various branches of the hybrid 
Malayo-Polynesian family, without taking account of the pro- 
portion in which the elements are mingled in each case. If 
groups (they say) with a common origin can show quite a different 
conformation of features and skull, the unity of the human race 
cannot be disproved along these lines at all. However foreign 
the negro or Mongol type may appear to European eyes, this 
is no evidence of their different origin ; the reasons why the 
human families have diverged will be found nearer to hand, and 

* There are some apparently trivial differences which are, however, 
very characteristic. A certain fullness at the side of the lower lip, that 
we see among Germans and English, is an example. This mark of Ger- 
manic origin may also be found in some faces of the Flemish School, in 
the Rubens Madonna at Dresden, in the Satyrs and Nymphs in the same 
collection, in a Lute-player of Mieris, &c. No craniological method can 
take account of such details, though they have a certain importance, 
in view of the mixed character of our races. 

H 113 


we may regard these physiological deviations merely as the 
result of certain local causes acting for a definite period of 

In face of so many objections, good and bad, the champions of 
multiplicity tried to extend the sphere of their arguments. 
Relying no longer on the mere study of skulls, they passed to that 
of the individual man as a whole. In order to prove (as is quite 
true) that the differences do not merely lie in the facial appearance 
and the bony conformation of the head, they brought forward 
other important differences with regard to the shape of the pelvis, 
the proportions of the limbs, the colour of the skin, and the nature 
of the capillary system. 

Camper and other anthropologists had already recognized that 

the pelvis of the negro showed certain peculiarities. Dr. Vrolik 

pushed these inquiries further, and observed that the difference 

between the male and female pelvis was far less marked in the 

European, while in the negro race he saw in the pelvis of both 

sexes a considerable approximation to the brute. Assuming 

* Job Ludolf, whose data on this subject were necessarily very incom- 
plete and inferior to those we have now, is none the less opposed to the 
opinion accepted by Prichard. His remarks on the black race are striking 
and unanswerable, and I cannot resist the pleasure of quoting them : 
-' It is not my purpose to speak here about the blackness of the Ethiop ; 
most people may, if they will, attribute it to the heat of the sun and the 
torrid zone. Yet even within the sun's equatorial path there are peoples 
who, if not white, are at least not quite black. Many who live outside 
either tropic are further from the Equator than the Persians or Syrians 
— for instance, the inhabitants of the Cape of Good Hope, who, however, 
are absolutely black. If you say that blackness belongs solely to Africa 
and the sons of Ham, you must still allow that the Malabars and the 
Cingalese and other even more remote peoples of Asia are equally black. 
If you regard the climate and soil as the reason, then why do not white 
men become black when they settle down in these regions ? If you take 
refuge in ' hidden qualities,' you would do better to confess your ignorance 
at once " (Jobus Ludolf us, Commentarium ad Historiam JEthiopicam). I 
will add a short and conclusive passage of Mr. Pickering. He speaks of 
the regions inhabited by the black race in these words : "Excluding the 
northern and southern extremes, with the tableland of Abyssinia, it holds 
all the more temperate and fertile parts of the Continent." Thus it is 
just where we find most of the pure negroes that it is least hot . . . 
(Pickering, ''The Races of Man and their Geographical Distribution." 
The essay is to be found in the " Records of the United States' Exploring 
Expedition during the Years 1838-42," vol. ix). 



that the configuration of the pelvis necessarily affected that of 
the embryo, he inferred a difference of origin.* 

Weber attacked this theory, with little result. He had to 
recognize that some formations of the pelvis were found in one 
race more frequently than in another ; and all he could do was 
to show that there were some exceptions to Vrolik's rule, and 
that certain American, African, and Mongolian specimens showed 
formations that were usually confined to Europeans. This does 
not prove very much, especially as, in speaking of these excep- 
tions, Weber does not seem to have inquired whether the peculiar 
configuration in question might not result from a mixture of 

With regard to the size of the limbs, the opponents of a common 
origin assert that the European is better proportioned. The 
answer — which is a good one — is that we have no reason to be 
surprised at the thinness of the extremities in peoples who live 
mainly on vegetables or have not generally enough to eat. But 
as against the argument from the extraordinary development of 
the bust among the Quichuas, the critics who refuse to recognize 
this as a specific difference are on less firm ground. Their con- 
tention that the development among the mountaineers of Peru 
is explained by the height of the Andes, is hardly serious. There 
are many mountain-peoples in the world who are quite differently 
constituted from the Quichuas.f 

The next point is the colour of the skin. The unitarians deny 
this any specific influence, first because the colour depends on 
facts of climate, and is not permanent — a very bold assertion ; 
secondly because the colour is capable of infinite gradation, pass- 
ing insensibly from white to yellow, from yellow to black, without 
showing a really definite line of cleavage. This proves nothing 
but the existence of a vast number of hybrids, a fact which the 
unitarians are continually neglecting, to the great prejudice of 
their theory. 

* Prichard, p. 124. 

t Neither the Swiss nor the Tyrolese, nor the Highlanders of Scotland, 
nor the Balkan Slavs, nor the Himalaya tribes have the same hideous 
appearance as the Quichuas. 



As to the specific character of the hair, Flourens is of opinion 
that this is no argument against an original unity of race. 

After this rapid review of the divergent theories I come 
to the great scientific stronghold of the unitarians, an argu- 
ment of great weight, which I have kept to the end — I mean the 
ease with which the different branches of the human family 
create hybrids, and the fertility of these hybrids. 
• The observations of naturalists seem to prove that, in the 
animal or vegetable world, hybrids can be produced only from 
allied species, and that, even so, they are condemned to barren- 
ness. It has also been observed that between related species 
intercourse, although possibly fertile, is repugnant, and usually 
has to be effected by trickery or force. This would tend to 
show that in the free state the number of hybrids is even more 
limited than when controlled by man. We may conclude that 
the power of producing fertile offspring is among the marks of 
a distinct species. 

As nothing leads us to believe that the human race is outside 
this rule, there is no answer to this argument, which more than 
any other has served to hold in check the forces opposed to 
unity. We hear, it is true, that in certain parts of Oceania the 
native women who have become mothers by Europeans are no 
longer fitted for impregnation by their own kind. Assuming this 
to be true, we might make it the basis of a more profound inquiry ; 
but, so far as the present discussion goes, we could not use 
it to weaken the general principle of the fertility of human 
hybrids and the infertility of all others ; it has no bearing on any 
conclusions that may be drawn from this principle. 




The unitarians say that the separation of the races is merely 
apparent, and due to local influences, such as are still at work, or 
to accidental variations of shape in the ancestor of some particular 
branch. All mankind is, for them, capable of the same improve- 
ment ; the original type, though more or less disguised, persists 
in unabated strength, and the negro, the American savage, the 
Tungusian of Northern Siberia, can attain a beauty of outline 
equal to that of the European, and would do so, if they were 
brought up under similar conditions. This theory cannot be 

We have seen above that the strongest scientific rampart of the 
unitarians lay in the fertility of human hybrids. Up to now, this 
has been very difficult to refute, but perhaps it will not always be 
so ; at any rate, I should not think it worth while to pause over 
this argument if it were not supported by another, of a very 
different kind, which, I confess, gives me more concern. It is 
said that Genesis does not admit of a multiple origin for our 

If the text is clear, positive, peremptory, and incontestable, we 
must bow our heads ; the greatest doubts must yield, reason can 
only declare herself imperfect and inferior, the origin of mankind 
is single, and everything that seems to prove the contrary is 
merely a delusive appearance. It is better to let darkness gather 
round a point of scholarship, than to enter the lists against such 
an authority. But if the Bible is not explicit, if the Holy Scrip- 
tures, which were written to shed light on quite other questions 
than those of race, have been misunderstood, and if without 
doing them violence one can draw a different meaning from them, 
then I shall not hesitate to go forward. 



We must, of course, acknowledge that Adam is the ancestor 
of the white race. The scriptures are evidently meant to be so 
understood, for the generations deriving from him are certainly 
white. This being admitted, there is nothing to show that, in 
the view of the first compilers of the Adamite genealogies, those 
outside the white race were counted as part of the species at all. 
Not a word is said about the yellow races, and it is only an 
arbitrary interpretation of the text that makes us regard the 
patriarch Ham as black. Of course the translators and com- 
mentators, in calling Adam the common ancestor of all men, 
have had to enrol among his descendants all the peoples who have 
lived since his time. According to them, the European nations 
are of the stock of Japhet, hither Asia was occupied by the 
Semites, and the regions of Africa by the Hamites, who are, 
as I say, unreasonably considered to be of negro origin. The 
whole scheme fits admirably together — for one part of the world. 
But what about the other part ? It is simply left out. 

For the moment, I do not insist on this line of argument. I 
do not wish to run counter to even literal interpretations of the 
text, if they are generally accepted. I will merely point out that 
we might, perhaps, doubt their value, without going beyond the 
limits imposed by the Church ; and then I will ask whether we 
may admit the basic principle of the unitarians, such as it is, 
and yet somehow explain the facts otherwise than they do. 
In other words, I will simply ask whether independently of any 
question of an original unity or multiplicity, there may not exist 
the most radical and far-reaching differences, both physical and 
moral, between human races. 

The racial identity of all the different kinds of dog is admitted 
by Frederic Cuvier among others ; * but no one would say that 
in all dogs, without distinction of species, we find the same shapes, 
instincts, habits, and qualities. The same is true of horses, bulls, 
bears, and the like. Everywhere we see identity of origin, 
diversity of everything else, a diversity so deep that it cannot 
be lost except by crossing, and even then the products do not 
* Annates du Mustum, vol. xi, p. 458. 



return to a real identity of nature. On the other hand, so long 
as the race is kept pure, the special characteristics remain 
unchanged, and are reproduced for generations without any 
appreciable difference. 

This fact, which is indisputable, has led some to ask whether 
in the various kinds of domestic animals we can recognize the 
shapes and instincts of the primitive stock. The question 
seems for ever insoluble. It is impossible to determine the 
form and nature of a primitive type, and to be certain how far 
the specimens we see to-day deviate from it. The same problem 
is raised in the case of a large number of vegetables. Man 
especially, whose origin offers a more interesting study than 
that of all the rest, seems to resist all explanation, from this 
point of view. 

The different races have never doubted that the original 
ancestor of the whole species had precisely their own character- 
istics. On this point, and this alone, tradition is unanimous. 
The white peoples have made for themselves an Adam and an Eve 
that Blumenbach would have called Caucasian ; whereas in 
the " Arabian Nights " — a book which, though apparently trivial, 
is a mine of true sayings and well-observed facts — we read that 
some negroes regard Adam and his wife as black, and since 
these were created in the image of God, God must also be black 
and the angels too, while the prophet of God was naturally too 
near divinity to show a white skin to his disciples. 

Unhappily, modern science has been able to provide no clue 
to the labyrinth of the various opinions. No likely hypothesis 
has succeeded in lightening this darkness, and in all probability 
the human races are as different from their common ancestor, 
if they have one, as they are from each other. I will therefore 
assume without discussion the principle of unity ; and my only 
task, in the narrow and limited field to which I am confining 
myself, is to explain the actual deviation from the primitive 

The causes are very hard to disentangle. The theory of the 
unitarians attributes the deviation, as I have already said, to 



habits, climate, and locality. It is impossible to agree with 
this.* Changes have certainly been brought about in the 
constitution of races, since the dawn of history, by such external 
influences ; but they do not seem to have been important enough 
to be able to explain fully the many vital divergences that exist. 
This will become clear in a moment. 

I will suppose that there are two tribes which still bear a 
resemblance to the primitive type, and happen to be living, 
the one in a mountainous country in the interior of a continent, 
the other on an island in the midst of the ocean. The atmosphere 
and the food conditions of each will be quite different. I will 
assume that the one has many ways of obtaining food, the other 
very few. Further, I will place the former in a cold climate, 
the second under a tropical sun. By this means the external 
contrast between them will be complete. The course of time 
will add its own weight to the action of the natural forces, 
and there is no doubt that the two groups will gradually 
accumulate some special characteristics which will distinguish 
them from each other. But even after many centuries no vital 
or organic change will have taken place in their constitution. 
This is proved by the fact that we find peoples of a very similar 
type, living on opposite sides of the world and under quite 
different conditions, of climate and everything else. Ethnologists 
are agreed on this point and some have even believed that the 

* The unitarians are continually bringing forward comparisons between 
man and the animals in support of their theory ; I have just been using 
such a line of argument myself. It only applies, however, within limits, 
and I could not honestly avail myself of it in speaking of the modification 
of species by climate. In this respect the difference between man and 
the animals is radical and (one might almost say) specific. There is a 
geography of animals, as there is of plants ; but there is no geography of 
man. It is only in certain latitudes that certain vegetables, mammals, 
reptiles, fishes, and molluscs can exist ; man, in all his varieties, can 
live equally well everywhere. In the case of the animals this fully explains 
a vast number of differences in organization ; and I can easily believe that 
the species that cannot cross a certain meridian or rise to a certain height 
above sea-level without dying are very dependent upon the influence of 
climate and quick to betray its effects in their forms and instincts. It is 
just, however, because man is absolutely free from such bondage that 
I refuse to be always comparing his position, in face of the forces of nature, 
with that of the animals. 



Hottentots are a Chinese colony — a hypothesis impossible on 
other grounds — on account of their likeness to the inhabitants 
of the Celestial Empire.* In the same way, some have seen a 
great resemblance between the portraits we have of the ancient 
Etruscans and the Araucans of South America. In features 
and general shape the Cherokees seem almost identical with 
many of the Italian peoples, such as the Calabrians. The usual 
type of face among the inhabitants of Auvergne, especially the 
women, is far less like the ordinary European's than that of 
many Indian tribes of North America. Thus when we grant 
that nature can produce similar types in widely separated 
countries, under different conditions of life and climate, it 
becomes quite clear that the human races do not take their 
qualities from any of the external forces that are active at the 
present day. 

I would not, however, deny that local conditions may favour 
the deepening of some particular skin-colour, the tendency to 
obesity, the development of the chest muscles, the lengthening 
of the arms or the lower limbs, the increase or decrease of physical 
strength. But, I repeat, these are not essential points ; and 
to judge from the very slight difference made by the alteration 
of local conditions in the shape of the body, there is no reason 
to believe that they have ever had very much influence. This 
is an argument of considerable weight. 

Although we do not know what cataclysmal changes may 
have been effected in the physical organization of the races 
before the dawn of history, we may at least observe that this 
period extends only to about half the age attributed to our 
species. If for three or four thousand years the darkness is 
impenetrable, we still have another period of three thousand 
years, of which we can go right back to the beginning in the case 
of certain nations. Everything tends to show that the races 

* Barrow is the author of this theory, which he bases on certain points 
of resemblance in the shape of the head and the yellowish colour of the 
skin in the natives of the Cape of Good Hope. A traveller, whose name 
I forget, has even brought additional evidence by observing that the 
Hottentots usually wear a head-dress like the conical hat of the Chinese. 



which were then known, and which have remained relatively 
pure since that time, have not greatly changed in their outward 
appearance, although some of them no longer live in the same 
places, and so are no longer affected by the same external causes. 
Take, for example, the Arabs of the stock of Ishmael. We still 
find them, just as they are represented in the Egyptian monu- 
ments, not only in the parched deserts of their own land, but in 
the fertile, and often damp, regions of Malabar and the Coro- 
mandel Coast, in the islands of the Indies, and on many points 
of the north coast of Africa, where they are, as a fact, more mixed 
than anywhere else. Traces of them are still found in some 
parts of Roussillon, Languedoc, and the Spanish coast, although 
almost two centuries have passed away since their invasion. 
If the mere influence of environment had the power, as is 
supposed, of setting up and taking away the limits between 
organic types, it would have not allowed these to persist so long. 
The change of place would have been followed by a corresponding 
change of form. 

After the Arabs, I will mention the Jews, who are still more 
remarkable in this connexion, as they have settled in lands with 
very different climates from that of Palestine, and have given 
up their ancient mode of life. The Jewish type has, however, 
remained much the same ; the modifications it has undergone 
are of no importance and have never been enough, in any country 
or latitude, to change the general character of the race. The 
warlike Rechabites of the Arabian desert, the peaceful Portuguese, 
French, German, and Polish Jews — they all look alike. I have 
had the opportunity of examining closely one of the last kind. 
His features and profile clearly betrayed his origin. His eyes 
especially were unforgettable. This denizen of the north, whose 
immediate ancestors had lived, for many generations, in the 
snow, seemed to have been just tanned by the rays of the Syrian 
sun. The Semitic face looks exactly the same, in its main 
characteristics, as it appears on the Egyptian paintings of three 
or four thousand years ago, and more ; and we find it also, in 
an equally striking and recognizable form, under the most 



varied and disparate conditions of climate. The identity of 
descendant and ancestor does not stop at the features ; it 
continues also in the shape of the limbs and the temperament. 
The German Jews are usually smaller and more slender in build 
than the men of European race among whom they have lived 
for centuries. Further, the marriageable age is much earlier 
among them than among their fellow-countrymen of another 

This, by the way, is an assertion diametrically opposed to the 
opinion of Prichard, who in his zeal for proving the unity of the 
species, tries to show that the age of puberty, for the two sexes, 
is the same everywhere and in all races. f The reasons which 
he advances are drawn from the Old Testament in the case of 
the Jews, and, in the case of the Arabs, from the religious law 
of the Koran, by which the age of marriage is fixed, for girls, 
at fifteen, and even (in the opinion of Abu- Hani f ah) at eighteen. 

These two arguments seem very questionable. In the first 

place, the Biblical evidence is not admissible on this point, as 

it often includes facts that contradict the ordinary course of 

nature. Sarah, for example, was brought to bed of a child in 

extreme old age, when Abraham himself had reached a hundred 

years ; t to such an event ordinary reasoning cannot apply. 

Secondly, as to the views and ordinances of the Mohammedan 

law, I may say that the Koran did not intend merely to make 

sure of the physical fitness of the woman before authorizing 

the marriage. It wished her also to be far enough advanced in 

education and intelligence to be able to understand the serious 

duties of her new position. This is shown by the pains taken 

by the prophet to prescribe that the girl's religious instruction 

shall be continued to the time of her marriage. It is easy to 

see why, from this point of view, the day should have been put 

off as long as possible and why the law-giver thought it so 

important to develop the reasoning powers, instead of being as 

hasty in his ordinances as nature is in hers. This is not all. 

* Muller, Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen, vol. ii, p. 639. 
f Prichard, " Natural History of Man," 2nd edition, pp. 484 et sqq. 
X Genesis xxi, 5. 



Against the serious evidence brought forward by Prichard, 
there are some conclusive arguments, though of a lighter nature, 
that decide the question in favour of my view. 

The poets, in their stories of love, are concerned merely with 
showing their heroines in the flower of their beauty, without 
thinking of their moral development ; and the Oriental poets 
have always made their girl-lovers younger than the age 
prescribed by the Koran. Zuleika and Leila are certainly not 
yet fourteen. In India, the difference is still more marked. 
Sakuntala would be a mere child in Europe. The best age of 
love for an Indian girl is from nine to twelve years. It is a 
very general opinion, long accepted and established among the 
Indian, Persian, and Arab races, that the spring of life, for a 
woman, flowers at an age that we should call a little precocious. 
Our own writers have for long followed the lead, in this matter, 
of their Roman models. These, like their Greek teachers, 
regarded fifteen as the best age. Since our literature has been 
influenced by Northern ideas,* we have seen in our novels 
nothing but girls of eighteen, or even older. 

Returning now to more serious arguments, we find them 
equally abundant. In addition to what I have said about 
the German Jews, it may be mentioned that in many parts of 
Switzerland the sexual development of the people is so slow 
that, in the case of the men, it is not always complete at twenty. 
The Bohemians, or Zingaris, yield another set of results, which 
are easily verified. They show the same early development as 
the Hindus, who are akin to them ; and under the most in- 
clement skies, in Russia and in Moldavia, they still keep the 

* We must make an exception in the case of Shakespeare, who is painting 
a picture of Italy. Thus in Romeo and Juliet Capulet says : 

I' My child is yet a stranger in the world. 
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years ; 
Let two more summers wither in their pride 
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride." 

To which Paris answers : 

" Younger than she are happy mothers made." 



expression and shape of the face and the physical proportions, 
as well as the ideas and customs, of the pariahs.* 

I do not, however, mean to oppose Prichard on every point. 
One of his conclusions I gratefully adopt, namely that " difference 
of climate occasions very little, if any, important diversity as 
to the periods of life and the physical changes to which the 
human constitution is subject." f This remark is very true, and 
I would not dream of contesting it. I merely add that it seems 
to contradict to some slight extent the principles otherwise 
upheld by the learned American physiologist and antiquary. 

The reader will not fail to see that the question on which 
the argument here turns is that of the permanence of types. 
If we have shown that the human races are each, as it were, 
shut up in their own individuality, and can only issue from it 
by a mixture of blood, the unitarian theory will find itself very 
hard-pressed. It will have to recognize that, if the types are 
thus absolutely fixed, hereditary, and permanent, in spite of 
climate and lapse of time, mankind is no less completely and 
definitely split into separate parts, than it would be if specific 
differences were due to a real divergence of origin. 

It now becomes an easy matter for us to maintain this import- 
ant conclusion, which we have seen to be amply supported, in 
the case of the Arabs, by the evidence of Egyptian sculpture, 
and also by the observation of Jews and gipsies. At the same 
time there is no reason for rejecting the valuable help given by 
the paintings in the temples and underground chambers in the 

* According to Krapff, a Protestant missionary in East Africa, the 
Wanikas marry at twelve, boys and girls alike (Zeitschrift der Dentschen 
Morgenldndischen Gesellschaft, vol. iii, p. 317). In Paraguay the Jesuits 
introduced the custom, which still holds among their disciples, of marrying 
the boys at thirteen and the girls at ten. Widows of eleven and twelve 
are to be seen in this country (A. d'Orbigny, L'Homme amhicain, vol. i, 
p. 40). In South Brazil the women marry at ten or eleven. Menstruation 
both appears and ceases at an early age (Martius and Spix, Reise in Brasilien 
vol. i, p. 382). Such quotations might be infinitely extended ; I will 
only cite one more. In the novel of Yo-kiao-Li the Chinese heroine 
is sixteen years old, and her father is in despair that at such an age she 
is not yet married ! 

f Prichard, p. 486. 



valley of the Nile, which equally show the permanence of the 
Negro type, with its woolly hair, prognathous head, and thick 
lips. The recent discovery of the bas-reliefs at Khorsabad 
confirm what was already known from the sculptured tombs 
of Persepolis, and themselves prove, with absolute certainty, 
that the Assyrians are physiologically identical with the peoples 
who occupy their territory at the present day. 

If we had a similar body of evidence with regard to other 
races still living, the result would be the same. The fact of the 
permanence of types would merely be more fully demonstrated. 
It is enough however to have established it in all the cases where 
observation was possible. It is now for those who disagree to 
propose objections. 

They have no means of doing so, and their line of defence 
shows them either contradicting themselves from the start, or 
making some assertion quite contrary to the obvious facts. 
For example, they say that the Jewish type has changed with 
the climate, whereas the facts show the opposite. They base 
their argument on the existence in Germany of many fair-haired 
Jews with blue eyes.* For this to have any value from the 
unitarian point of view, climate would have to be regarded as 
the sole, or at any rate the chief, cause of the phenomenon ; 
whereas the unitarians ^themselves admit that the colour of the 
skin, eyes, and hair in no way depends either on geographical 
situation or on the influence of cold or heat.f They rightly 
mention the presence of blue eyes and fair hair among the 
Cingalese ; X they even notice a considerable variation from 
light brown to black. Again, they admit that the Samoyedes 

* It has been since discovered that this fairness, in certain Jews, is 
due to a mixture of Tartar blood ; in the 9 th century a tribe of Chasars 
went over to Judaism and intermarried with the German-Polish Jews 
(Kutschera, Die Chasaren). — Tr. 

I Edinburgh Review, M Ethnology or the Science of Races," October 
1848, pp. 444-8 : ''There is probably no evidence of original diversity 
of race which is so generally relied upon as that derived from the colour 
of the skin and the character of the hair . . . but it will not, we think, stand 
the test of a serious examination. . . . 

% Ibid., p. 453 : " The Cingalese are described by Dr. Davy as varying 
in colour from light brown to black. The prevalent hue of their hair and 



and Tungusians, although living on the borders of the Arctic 
Ocean, are very swarthy.* Thus the climate counts for nothing 
so far as the colouring of the skin, hair, and eyes is concerned. 
We must regard them either as having no significance at all, or 
as vitally bound up with race. We know, for example, that 
red hair is not, and never has been, rare in the East ; and so no 
one need be surprised to find it to-day in some German Jews. 
Such a fact has no influence, one way or the other, on the theory 
of the permanence of types. 

The unitarians are no more fortunate when they call in history 
to help them. They give only two instances to prove their 
theory — the Turks and the Magyars. The Asiatic origin of 
the former is taken as self-evident, as well as their close relation 
to the Finnish stocks of the Ostiaks and the Laplanders. Hence 
they had in primitive times the yellow face, prominent cheek- 
bones, and short stature of the Mongols. Having settled this 
point, our unitarian turns to their descendants of to-day ; and 
finding them of a European type, with long thick beards, eyes 
almond-shaped, but no longer slanting, he concludes trium- 
phantly, from this utter transformation of the Turks, that 
there is no permanence in race.f " Some people," he says in 
effect, " have certainly supposed in them a mixture of Greek, 
Georgian, and Circassian blood. But this mixture has been 
only partial. Not all Turks have been rich enough to buy wives 
from the Caucasus ; not all have had harems filled with white 
slaves. On the other hand, the hatred felt by the Greeks towards 
their conquerors, and religious antipathy in general, have been 
unfavourable to such alliances ; though the two peoples live 
together, they are just as much separated in spirit at the present 
time as on the first day of the conquest." J 

These reasons are more specious than solid. We can only 

eyes is black, but hazel eyes and brown hair are not very uncommon ; 
grey eyes and red hair are occasionally seen, though rarely, and sometimes 
the light blue or red eye and flaxen hair of the Albino." 

* Edinburgh Review, " The Samoyedes, Tungusians, and others living on 
the borders of the Icy Sea have a dirty brown or swarthy complexion." 

t Ibid., p. 439. 

J Ibid., p. 439 (summarized). 



admit provisionally the Finnish origin of the Turkish race. Up 
to now, it has been supported only by a single argument, 
the affinity of language. I will show later how the argument 
from language, when taken alone, is peculiarly open to doubt 
and criticism. Assuming however that the ancestors of the 
Turkish people belonged to the yellow race, we can easily show 
that they had excellent reasons for keeping themselves apart 
from it. 

From the time when the first Turanian hordes descended from 
the north-east to that when they made themselves masters of 
the city of Constantine, a period comprising many centuries, 
great changes passed over the world ; and the Western Turks 
suffered many vicissitudes of fortune. They were in turn 
victors and vanquished, slaves and masters ; and very diverse 
were the peoples among whom they settled. According to the 
annalists,* the Oghuzes, their ancestors, came down from the 
Altai Mountains, and, in the time of Abraham lived in the 
immense steppes of Upper Asia that extend from the Katai to 
Lake Aral, from Siberia to Tibet. This is the ancient and 
mysterious domain that was still inhabited by many Germanic 
peoples, f It is a curious fact that as soon as Eastern writers 
begin to speak of the peoples of Turkestan, they praise their 
beauty of face and stature.:}: Hyperbolic expressions are the 
rule, in this connexion ; and as these writers had the beautiful 
types of the ancient world before their eyes, as a standard, it is 
not very likely that their enthusiasm should have been aroused 
by the sight of creatures so incontrovertibly ugly and repulsive 
as the ordinary specimens of the Mongolian race. Thus in spite 

* Hammer, Geschichte des Osmanischen Reichs, vol. i, p. 2. 

♦ Ritter, Erdkunde, Asien, vol. i, pp. 433, 1115, &c. ; Tassen, Zeitschrift 
fur die Kunde des Morgenlandes, vol. ii, p. 65 ; Benfey, Ersch and Gruber's 
Encyclopddie, Indien, p. 12. A. von Humboldt calls this fact one of the 
most important discoveries of our time (Asie centrale, vol. ii, p. 639). 
From the point of view of historical science this is absolutely true. 

% Nushirwan, who reigned in the first half of the sixth century a.d., 
married Sharuz, daughter of the Turkish Khan. She was the most 
beautiful woman of her time (Hanebcrg, Zeitschrift fiir die Kunde des 
Morgenlandes, vol. i, p. 187). The Shahnameh gives many facts of the 
same kind. 



of the linguistic argument, which may itself be wrongly used,^ 
we might still make out a good case for our view. But we 
will concede the point, and admit that the Oghuzes of the 
Altai were really a Finnish people ; and we will pass on to the 
Mohammedan period, when the Turkish tribes were established, 
under different names and varied circumstances, in Persia and 
Asia Minor. 

The Osmanlis did not as yet exist, and their ancestors, the 
Seljukians, were already closely connected in blood with the 
races of Islam. The chiefs of this people, such as Gayaseddin- 
Keikosrev, in 1237, freely intermarried with Arab women. They 
did better still ; for Aseddin, the mother of another line of 
Seljukian princes, was a Christian. In all countries the chiefs 
watch more jealously than the common people over the purity 
of their race ; and when a chief showed himself so free from 
prejudice, it is at least permissible to assume that his subjects 
were not more scrupulous. As the continual raids of the Selju- 
kians offered them every opportunity to seize slaves throughout 
the vast territory which they overran, there is no doubt that, 
from the thirteenth century, the ancient Oghuz stock, with 
which the Seljukians of Rum claimed a distant kinship, was 
permeated to a great extent with Semitic blood. 

From this branch sprang Osman, the son of Ortoghrul and 
father of the Osmanlis. The families that collected round his 
tent were not very numerous. His army was no more than a 

* Just as the Scythians, a Mongolian race, had adopted an Aryan 
tongue, so there would be nothing surprising in the view that the Oghouzes 
were an Aryan race, although they spoke a Finnish dialect. This theory 
is curiously supported by a naive phrase of the traveller Rubruquis, who 
was sent by St. Louis to the ruler of the Mongols. " I was struck," 
says the good monk, "by the likeness borne by this prince to the late 
M. Jean de Beaumont, who was equally ruddy and fresh-looking." Alex- 
ander von Humboldt, interested, as he well might be, by such a remark, 
adds with no less good sense, "This point of physiognomy is especially 
worth noting if we remember that the family of Tchingiz was probably 
Turkish, and not Mongolian." He confirms his conclusion by adding 
that ' ' the absence of Mongolian characteristics strikes us also in the 
portraits which we have of the descendants of Baber, the rulers of India " 
{Asie centrale, vol. i, p. 248 and note). 

I 129 


robber-band ; and if the early successors of this nomad Romulus 
were able to increase it, they did so merely by following the 
practice of the founder of Rome, and opening their tents to any- 
one who wished to enter. 

It may be assumed that the fall of the Seljukian Empire helped 
to send recruits of their own race to the Osmanlis. It is clear 
that this race had undergone considerable change ; besides, 
even these new resources were not enough, for from this time the 
Turks began to make systematic slave-raids, with the express 
object of increasing their own population. At the beginning of 
the fourteenth century, Urkan, at the instance of Khalil Chen- 
dereli the Black, founded the Guard of Janissaries. At first 
these were only a thousand strong. But under Mohammed IV 
the new guard numbered 140,000 ; and as up to this time the 
Turks had been careful to fill up the ranks only with Christian 
children taken from Poland, Germany, and Italy, or from 
European Turkey itself, and then converted to Islam, there were 
in four centuries at least 5000 heads of families who infused 
European blood into the veins of the Turkish nation. 

The racial admixture did not end here. The main object of 
the piracy practised on such a large scale throughout the Mediter- 
ranean was to fill up the harems. Further (a still more conclusive 
fact) there was no battle, whether lost or won, that did not in- 
crease the number of the Faithful. A considerable number of the 
males changed their religion, and counted henceforth as Turks. 
Again, the country surrounding the field of battle was overrun 
by the troops and yielded them all the women they could seize. 
The plunder was often so abundant that they had difficulty in 
disposing of it ; the most beautiful girl was bartered for a jack- 
boot.* When we consider this in connexion with the population 
of Asiatic and European Turkey, which has, as we know, never 

* Hammer, op. cit., vol. i, p. 448 : " The battle against the Hungarians 
was hotly contested and the booty considerable. So many boys and girls 
were seized that the most beautifui female slave was exchanged for a 
jackboot, and Ashik-Pacha-Zadeh, the historian, who himself took part 
in the battle and the plunder, could not sell five boy-slaves at Skopi for 
more than 500 piastres.' 1 



exceeded twelve millions, we see clearly that the arguments for 
or against the permanence of racial type find no support whatever 
in the history of such a mixed people as the Turks. This is so 
self-evident, that when we notice, as we often do, some charac- 
teristic features of the yellow race in an Osmanli, we cannot 
attribute this directly to his Finnish origin ; it is simply the effect 
of Slav or Tartar blood, exhibiting, at second hand, the foreign 
elements it had itself absorbed. 

Having finished my observations on the ethnology of the 
Ottomans, I pass to the Magyars. 

The unitarian theory is backed by such arguments as the 
following : " The Magyars are of Finnish origin, and allied 
to the Laplanders, Samoyedes, and Eskimos. These are all 
people of low stature, with wide faces and prominent cheek-bones, 
yellowish or dirty brown in colour. The Magyars, however, are 
tall and well set up ; their limbs are long, supple and vigorous, 
their features are of marked beauty, and resemble those of the 
white nations. The Finns have always been weak, unintelligent, 
and oppressed. The Magyars take a high place among the 
conquerors of the world. They have enslaved others, but have 
never been slaves themselves. Thus, since the Magyars are 
Finns, and are so different, physically and morally, from all the 
other branches of their primitive stock, they must have changed 
enormously." * 

If such a change had really taken place, it would be so extra- 
ordinary as to defy all explanation, even by the unitarians, 
however great the modifications that may be assumed in these 
particular types ; for the transformation-scene would have taken 
place between the end of the ninth century and the present day, 
that is, in about 800 years. Further, we know that in this period 
St. Stephen's fellow countrymen have not intermarried to any 
great extent with the nations among whom they live. Happily 
for common sense, there is no need for surprise, as the argument, 

* " Ethnology," &c, p. 439 : " The Hungarian nobility ... is proved by 
historical and philological evidence to have been a branch of the great 
Northern Asiatic stock, closely allied in blood to the stupid and feeble 
Ostiaks and the untamable Laplanders." 



though otherwise perfect, makes one vital mistake — the Hun- 
garians are certainly not Finns. 

In a well-written article, A. de Gerando * has exploded the 
theories of Schlotzer and his followers. By weighty arguments 
drawn from Greek and Arab historians and Hungarian annalists, 
by facts and dates that defy criticism, he has proved the kinship 
of the Transylvanian tribe of the Siculi with the Huns, and the 
identity in primitive times of the former with the last invaders 
of Pannonia. Thus the Magyars are Huns. 

Here we shall no doubt be met by a further objection, namely 
that though this argument may point to a different origin for the 
Magyars, it connects them just as intimately as the other with the 
yellow race. This is an error. The name " Huns " may denote 
a nation, but it is also, historically speaking, a collective word. 
The mass of tribes to which it refers is not homogeneous. Among 
the crowd of peoples enrolled under the banner of Attila's 
ancestors, certain bands, known as the " White Huns," have 
always been distinguished. In these the Germanic element 
predominated, f 

Contact with the yellow races had certainly affected the purity 
of their blood. There is no mystery about this ; the fact is 
betrayed at once by the rather angular and bony features of the 
Magyar. The language is very closely related to some Turkish 
dialects. Thus the Magyars are White Huns, though they have 
been wrongly made out to be a yellow race, a confusion caused 

* Essai historique sur I'origine des Hongrois (Paris, 1844). 

f The current opinions about the peoples of Central Asia will, it seems, 
have to be greatly modified. It can no longer be denied that the blood 
of the yellow races has been crossed more or less considerably by a white 
strain. This fact was not suspected before, but it throws a doubt on 
all the ancient notions on the subject, which must now be revised in 
the light of it. Alexander von Humboldt makes a very important obser- 
vation with regard to the Kirghiz-Kasaks, who are mentioned by Menander 
of Byzantium and Constantine Porphyrogenetes. He rightly shows that 
when the former speaks of a Kirghiz (Xep^/s) concubine given by the 
Turkish Shagan Dithubul to Zemarch, the envoy of the Emperor Justin II, 
in 569, he is referring to a girl of mixed blood. She corresponds exactly 
to the beautiful Turkish girls who are so praised by the Persians, and 
who were as little Mongolian in type as this Kirghiz (Asie centrale, vol. i, 
P- 237, &c. ; vol. ii, pp. 130-31). 



by their intermarriages in the past (whether voluntary or other- 
wise) with Mongolians. They are really, as we have shown, 
cross-breeds with a Germanic basis. The roots and general 
vocabulary of their language are quite different from those of the 
Germanic family ; but exactly the same was the case with the 
Scythians, a yellow race speaking an Aryan dialect,* and with the 
Scandinavians of Neustria, who were, after some years of con- 
quest, led to adopt the Celto-Latin dialect of their subjects.f 
Nothing warrants the belief that lapse of time, difference of 
climate, or change of customs should have turned a Laplander 
or an Ostiak, a Tungusian or a Permian, into a St. Stephen. 
I conclude, from this refutation of the only arguments brought 
forward by the unitarians, that the permanence of racial types is 
beyond dispute ; it is so strong and indestructible that the most 
complete change of environment has no power to overthrow it, 
so long as no crossing takes place. 

Whatever side, therefore, one may take in the controversy as 
to the unity or multiplicity of origin possessed by the human 
species, it is certain that the different families are to-day abso- 
lutely separate ; for there is no external influence that could 
cause any resemblance between them or force them into a 
homogeneous mass. 

JThe existing races constitute separate branches of one or many 
primitive stocks. These stocks have now vanished. They are 
not known in historical times at all, and we cannot form even 
the most general idea of their qualities. They differed from 
each other in the shape and proportion of the limbs, the structure 
of the skull, the internal conformation of the body, the nature of 
the capillary system, the colour of the skin, and the like ; and 
they never bucceeded in losing their characteristic features except 
under the powerful influence of the crossing of blood. 
i This permanence of racial qualities is quite sufficient to generate 
the radical unlikeness and inequality that exists between the 
different branches, to raise them to the dignity of natural laws, 

* Schaffarik, Slavische AJtertiimer, vol. i, p. 279 et pass. 

f Aug. Thierry, Histoire de la Conqnete d'Angleterre, vol. i, p. 155. 




and to justify the same distinctions being drawn with regard to 
the physiological life of nations, as I shall show, later, to be 
applicable to their moral life. 

Owing to my respect for a scientific authority which I cannot 
overthrow, and, still more, for a religious interpretation that I 
could not venture to attack, I must resign myself to leaving on 
one side the grave doubts that are always oppressing me as to 
the question of original unity ; and I will now try to discover as 
far as I can, with the resources that are still left to me, the 
probable causes of these ultimate physiological differences. 

As no one will venture to deny, there broods over this grave 
question a mysterious darkness, big with causes that are at the 
same time physical and supernatural. In the inmost recesses of 
the obscurity that shrouds the problem, reign the causes which 
have their ultimate home in the mind of God ; the human spirit 
feels their presence without divining their nature, and shrinks 
back in awful reverence. It is probable that the earthly agents 
to whom we look for the key of the secret are themselves but 
instruments and petty springs in the great machine. The origins 
of all things, of all events and movements, are not infinitely small, 
as we are often pleased to say, but on the contrary so vast, so 
immeasurable by the poor foot-rule of man's intelligence, that 
while we may perhaps have some vague suspicion of their exist- 
ence, we can never hope to lay hands on them or attain to any 
sure discovery of their nature. Just as in an iron chain that is 
meant to lift up a great weight it frequently happens that the 
link nearest the object is the smallest, so the proximate cause 
may often seem insignificant ; and if we merely consider it in 
isolation, we tend to forget the long series that has gone before. 
This alone gives it meaning, but this, in all its strength and might, 
derives from something that human eye has never seen. We 
must not therefore, like the fool in the old adage, wonder at 
the power of the roseleaf to make the water overflow ; we should 
rather think that the reason of the accident lay in the depths of 
the water that filled the vessel to overflowing. Let us yield all 
respect to the primal and generating causes, that dwell far off in 



heaven, and without which nothing would exist ; conscious of 
the Divine power that moves them, they rightly claim a part of 
the veneration we pay to their Infinite Creator. But let us 
abstain from speaking of them here. It is not fitting for us to 
leave the human sphere, where alone we may hope to meet with 
certainty. All we can do is to seize the chain, if not by the 
last small link, at any rate by that part of it which we can see and 
touch, without trying to catch at what is beyond our reach — 
a task too difficult for mortal man. There is no irreverence in 
saying this ; on the contrary, it expresses the sincere conviction 
of a weakness that is insurmountable. 

Man is a new-comer in this world. Geology — proceeding 
merely by induction, but attacking its problems in a marvellously 
systematic way — asserts that man is absent from all the oldest 
strata of the earth's surface. There is no trace of him among the 
fossils. When our ancestors appeared for the first time in an 
already aged world, God, according to Scripture, told them that 
they would be its masters and have dominion over everything on 
earth. This promise was given not so much to them as to their 
descendants ; for these first feeble creatures seem to have been 
provided with very few means, not merely of conquering the 
whole of nature, but even of resisting its weakest attacks.* The 
ethereal heavens had seen, in former epochs, beings far more 
imposing than man rise from the muddy earth and the deep 
waters. Most of these gigantic races had, no doubt, disappeared 
in the terrible revolutions in which the inorganic world had 
shown a power so immeasurably beyond that possessed by animate 
nature. A great number, however, of these monstrous creatures 
were still living. Every region was haunted by herds of elephants 
and rhinoceroses, and even the mastodon has left traces of its 
existence in American tradition. f 

These last remnants of the monsters of an earlier day were 
more than enough to impress the first members of our species 
with an uneasy feeling of their own inferiority, and a very modest 

* Lyell, " Principles of Geology," vol. i, p. 178. 
I Link, Die UriveU und das Alferfum, vol. i, p. 84. 



view of their problematic royalty. It was not merely the animals 
from whom they had to wrest their disputed empire. These 
could in the last resort be fought, by craft if not by force, and 
in default of conquest could be avoided by flight. The case was 
quite different with Nature, that immense Nature that sur- 
rounded the primitive families on all sides, held them in a close 
grip, and made them feel in every nerve her awful power.* The 
cosmic causes of the ancient cataclysms, although feebler, were 
always at work. Partial upheavals still disturbed the relative 
positions of earth and ocean. Sometimes the level of the sea 
rose and swallowed up vast stretches of coast ; sometimes a 
terrible volcanic eruption would vomit from the depths of the 
waters some mountainous mass, to become part of a continent. 
The world was still in travail, and Jehovah had not calmed it by 
" seeing that it was good." 

This general lack of equilibrium necessarily reacted on atmo- 
spheric conditions. The strife of earth, fire, and water brought 
with it complete and rapid changes of heat, cold, dryness, and 
humidity. The exhalations from the ground, still shaken with 
earthquake, had an irresistible influence on living creatures. 
The causes that enveloped the globe with the breath of battle and 
suffering could not but increase the pressure brought to bear 
by nature on man. Differences of climate and environment 
acted on our first parents far more effectively than to-day. 
Cuvier, in his " Treatise on the revolutions of the globe," says 
that the inorganic forces of the present day would be quite 
incapable of causing convulsions and upheavals, or new arrange- 
ments of the earth's surface, such as those to which geology 
bears witness. The changes that were wrought in the past on 
her own body by the awful might of nature would be impossible 
to-day ; she had a similar power over the human race, but has 
it no longer. Her omnipotence has been so lost, or at least so 
weakened and whittled away, that in a period of years covering 
roughly half the life of our species on the earth, she has brought 
about no change of any importance, much less one that can be 
* Link, op. cif., vol. i, p. 91. 



compared to that by which the different races were for ever 
marked off from each other.* 

Two points are certain : first that the main differences between 
the branches of our race were fixed in the earliest epoch of our 
terrestrial life ; secondly, that in order to imagine a period when 
these physiological cleavages could have been brought about, we 
must go back to the time when the influence of natural causes was 
far more active than it is now, under the normal and healthy 
conditions. Such a time could be none other than that imme- 
diately after the creation, when the earth was still shaken by its 
recent catastrophes and without any defence against the fearful 
effects of their last death-throes. 

Assuming the unitarian theory, we cannot give any later 
date for the separation of types. 

No argument can be based on the accidental deviations from 
the normal which are sometimes found in certain individual 
instances, and which, if transmitted, would certainly give rise 
to important varieties. Without including such deformities as 
a hump-back, some curious facts have been collected which 
seem, at first sight, to be of value in explaining the diversity of 
races. To cite only one instance, Prichard f quotes Baker's 
account of a man whose whole body, with the exception of his 
face, was covered with a sort of dark shell, resembling a large 
collection of warts, very hard and callous, and insensible to 
pain ; when cut, it did not bleed. At different periods this 
curious covering, after reaching a thickness of three-quarters of 

* Cuvier, op. cit. Compare also, on this point, the opinion of Alexander 
von Humboldt : ''In the epochs preceding the existence of the human 
race the action of the forces in the interior of the globe must, as the earth's 
crust increased in thickness, have modified the temperature of the air 
and made the whole earth habitable by the products which we now regard 
as exclusively tropical. Afterwards the spatial relation of our planet to 
the central body (the sun) began, by means of radiation and cooling down, 
to be almost the sole agent in determining the climate at different latitudes. 
It was also in these primitive times that the elastic fluids, or volcanic 
forces, inside the earth, more powerful than they are to-day, made their 
way through the oxidized and imperfectly solidified crust of our planet ' ' 
(Asie centrale, vol. i, p. 47). 

I Second edition, pp. 92-4. The man was born in 1727. 



an inch, would become detached, and fall off ; it was then re- 
placed by another, similar in all respects. Four sons were born 
to him, all resembling their father. One survived ; but Baker, 
who saw him in infancy, does not say whether he reached man- 
hood. He merely infers that since the father has produced 
such offspring, " a race of people may be propagated by this man, 
having such rugged coats and coverings as himself ; and if this 
should ever happen, and the accidental original be forgotten, it 
is not improbable they might be deemed a different species of 

Such a conclusion is possible. Individuals, however, who are 
so different as these from the species in general, do not transmit 
their characteristics. Their posterity either returns to the 
regular path or is soon extinguished. All things that deviate 
from the natural and normal order of the world can only borrow 
life for a time ; they are not fitted to keep it. Otherwise, a 
succession of strange accidents would, long before this, have 
set mankind on a road far removed from the physiological con- 
ditions which have obtained, without change, throughout the 
ages. We must conclude that impermanence is one of the 
essential and basic features of these anomalies. We could not 
include in such a category the woolly hair and black skin of the 
negro, or the yellow colour, wide face, and slanting eyes of the 
Chinaman. These are all permanent characteristics ; they are 
in no way abnormal, and so cannot come from an accidental 

We will now give a summary of the present chapter. 

In face of the difficulties offered by the most liberal interpre- 
tation of the Biblical text, and the objection founded on the law 
regulating the generation of hybrids, it is impossible to pro- 
nounce categorically in favour of a multiplicity of origin for the 
human species. 

We must therefore be content to assign a lower cause to those 
clear-cut varieties of which the main quality is undoubtedly their 
permanence, a permanence that can only be lost by a crossing 
of blood. We can identify this cause with the amount of climatic 



energy possessed by the earth at a time when the human race 
had just appeared on its surface. There is no doubt that the 
forces that inorganic nature could bring into play were far greater 
then than anything we have known since, and under their 
pressure racial modifications were accomplished which would 
now be impossible. Probably, too, the creatures exposed to 
these tremendous forces were more liable to be affected by 
them than existing types would be. Man, in his earliest stages, 
assumed many unstable forms ; he did not perhaps belong, in 
any definite manner, to the white, red, or yellow variety. The 
deviations that transformed the primitive characteristics of the 
species into the types established to-day were probably much 
smaller than those that would now be required for the black race, 
for example, to become assimilated to the white, or the yellow 
to the black. On this hypothesis, we should have to regard 
Adamite man as equally different from all the existing human 
groups ; these would have radiated all around him, the distance 
between him and any group being double that between one 
group and another. How much of the primitive type would 
the peoples of the different races have subsequently retained ? 
Merely the most general characteristics of our species, the 
vague resemblances of shape common to the most distant groups, 
and the possibility of expressing their wants by articulate 
sounds — but nothing more. The remaining features peculiar 
to primitive man would have been completely lost, by the black 
as well as the non-black races ; and although we are all originally 
descended from him, we should have owed to outside influences 
everything that gave us our distinctive and special character. 
Henceforth the human races, the product of cosmic forces as 
well as of the primitive Adamic stock, would be very slightly, 
if at all, related to each other. The power of giving birth to 
fertile hybrids would certainly be a perpetual proof of original 
connexion ; but it would be the only one. As soon as the 
primal differences of environment had given each group its 
isolated character, as a possession for ever — its shape, features, 
and colour — from that moment the link of primal unity would 



have been suddenly snapped ; the unity, so far as influence on 
racial development went, would be actually sterile. The strict 
and unassailable permanence of form and feature to which the 
earliest historical documents bear witness would be the charter 
and sign-manual of the eternal separation of races. 




The question of cosmic influences is one that ought to be fully 
cleared up, as I am confining myself to arguments based on it. 
The first problem with which I have to deal is the following : — 
" How could men, whose common origin implies a single starting- 
point, have been exposed to such a diversity of influences from 
without ? " After the first separation of races, the groups were 
already numerous enough to be found under totally different 
conditions of climate ; how then, considering the immense 
difficulties they had to contend against, the vast forests and 
marshy plains they had to cross, the sandy or snowy deserts, 
the rivers, lakes, and oceans — how, with all these obstacles, 
did they manage to cover distances which civilized man to-day, 
with all his developed power, can only surmount with 
great toil and trouble ? To answer these objections, we 
must try to discover where the human species had its original 

A very ancient idea, adopted also by some great modern 
minds, such as Cuvier, is that the different mountain-systems 
must have served as the point of departure for certain races. 
According to this theory, the white races, and even certain 
African varieties whose skull is shaped like our own, had their 
first settlement in the Caucasus. The yellow race came down 
from the ice-bound heights of the Altai. Again, the tribes of 
prognathous negroes built their first huts on the southern slopes 
of Mount Atlas, and made this the starting-point of their first 
migrations. Thus, the frightful places of the earth, difficult 



of access and full of gloomy horror — torrents, caverns, icy moun- 
tains, eternal snows, and impassable abysses — were actually 
more familiar to primitive ages than any others ; while all the 
terrors of the unknown lurked, for our first ancestors, in the 
uncovered plains, on the banks of the great rivers, on the coasts 
of the lakes and seas. 

The chief motive urging the ancient philosophers to put 
forward this theory, and the moderns to revive it, seems to have 
been the idea that, in order to pass successfully through the 
great physical crises of the world, mankind must have collected 
on the mountain heights, where the floods and inundations 
could not reach them. This large and general interpretation 
of the tradition of Ararat may suit perhaps the later epochs, 
when the children of men had covered the face of the earth ; 
but it is quite inapplicable to the time of relative calm that 
marked their first appearance. It is also contrary to all theories 
as to the unity of the species. Again, mountains from the 
remotest times have been the object of profound terror and 
religious awe. On them has been set, by all mythologies, the 
abode of the gods. It was on the snowy peak of Olympus, it 
was on Mount Meru that the Greeks and the Brahmans imagined 
their divine synods. It was on the summit of the Caucasus 
that Prometheus suffered the mysterious punishment of his still 
more mysterious crime. If men had begun by making their 
home in the remote heights, it is not likely that their imagina- 
tion would have caused them to raise these to the height of 
heaven itself. We have a scant respect for what we have seen 
and known and trodden underfoot. There would have been 
no divinities but those of the waters and the plains. Hence I 
incline to the opposite belief, that the flat and uncovered regions 
witnessed the first steps of man. This is, by the way, the 
Biblical notion.* After the first settlements were made in these 
parts, the difficulties of accounting for migrations are sensibly 
diminished ; for flat regions are generally cut by rivers and 
reach down to the sea, and so there would have been no need to 

* See Genesis ii, 8, 10, 15. 


undertake the difficult task of crossing forests, deserts, and 
great marshes. 

There are two kinds of migrations, the voluntary and the 
unexpected. The former are out of the question in very early 
times. The latter are more possible, and more probable too, 
among shiftless and unprepared savages than among civilised 
nations. A family huddled together on a drifting raft, a few 
unfortunate people surprised by an inrush of the sea, clinging 
to trunks of trees, and caught up by the currents — these are 
enough to account for a transplantation over long distances. 
The weaker man is, the more is he the sport of inorganic forces. 
The less experience he has, the more slavishly does he respond 
to accidents which he can neither foresee nor avoid. There are 
striking examples of the ease with which men can be carried, 
in spite of themselves, over considerable distances. Thus, we 
hear that in 1696 two large canoes from Ancorso, containing 
about thirty savages, men and women, were caught in a storm, 
and after drifting aimlessly some time, finally arrived at Samal, 
one of the Philippine Islands, three hundred leagues from their 
starting-point. Again, four natives of Ulea were carried out to 
sea in a canoe by a sudden squall. They drifted about for eight 
months, and reached at last one of the Radack Islands, at the 
eastern end of the Caroline Archipelago, after an involuntary 
voyage of 550 leagues. These unfortunate men lived solely on 
fish, and carefully collected every drop of rain they could. 
When rain failed them, they dived into the depths of the sea and 
drank the water there, which, they say, is less salt. Naturally, 
when they reached Radack, the travellers were in a deplorable 
state ; but they soon rallied, and were eventually restored to 

These two examples are a sufficient witness for the rapid 
diffusion of human groups in very different regions, and under 
the most varied local conditions. If further proofs were re- 
quired, we might mention the ease with which insects, plants, 
and testaceans are carried all over the world ; it is, of course, 
* Lyell, "Principles of Geology," vol. ii, p. 119. 



unnecessary to show that what happens to such things may, 
a fortiori, happen more easily to man.* The land-testaceans 
are thrown into the sea by the destruction of the cliffs, and are 
then carried to distant shores by means of currents. Zoophytes 
attach themselves to the shells of molluscs or let their tentacles 
float on the surface of the sea, and so are driven along by the 
wind to form distant colonies. The very trees of unknown 
species, the very sculptured planks, the last of a long line, which 
were cast up on the Canaries in the fifteenth century, and by 
providing a text for the meditations of Christopher Columbus 
paved the way for the discovery of the New World — even these 
probably carried on their surface the eggs of insects ; and these eggs 
were hatched, by the heat engendered by new sap, far from their 
place of origin and the land where lived the others of their kind. 
Thus there is nothing against the notion that the first human 
families might soon have been separated, and lived under very 
different conditions of climate, in regions far apart from each 
other. But it is not necessary, even under present circumstances, 
for the places to be far apart, in order to ensure a variation in 
the temperature, and in the local conditions resulting from it. 
In mountainous countries like Switzerland, the distance of a few 
miles makes such a difference in the soil and atmosphere, that 
we find the flora of Lapland and Southern Italy practically side 
by side ; similarly in Isola Madre, on Lago Maggiore, oranges, 
great cacti, and dwarf palms grow in the open, in full view of 
the Simplon. We need not confine ourselves to mountains ; the 
temperature of Normandy is lower than that of Jersey, while in 
the narrow triangle formed by the Western coasts of France, the 
vegetation is of the most varied character.! 

* Alexander von Humboldt does not think that this hypothesis can 
apply to the migration of plants. "What we know," he says, "of the 
deleterious action exerted by sea-water, during a voyage of 500 or 600 
leagues, over the reproductive power of most grains, does not favour 
the theory of the migration of vegetables by means of ocean currents. 
Such a theory is too general and comprehensive " (Examen critique de 
I'histoire de la geographic du nouveau continent, vol. ii, p. 78). 

f Alexander von Humboldt gives the law determining these facts in 
the following passage (Asie centrale, vol. iii, p. 23) : " The foundation of 



The contrasts must have been tremendous, even over the 
smallest areas, in the days that followed the first appearance 
of our species on the globe. The selfsame place might easily 
become the theatre of vast atmospheric revolutions, when the 
sea retreated or advanced by the inundation or drying up of 
the neighbouring regions ; when mountains suddenly rose in 
enormous masses, or sank to the common level of the earth, so 
that the plains covered what once was their crests ; and when 
tremors, that shook the axis of the earth, and by affecting its 
equilibrium and the inclination of the poles to the ecliptic, 
came to disturb the general economy of the planet. 

We may now consider that we have met all the objections, 

that might be urged as to the difficulty of changing one's place 

and climate in the early ages of the world. There is no reason 

why some groups of the human family should not have gone 

far afield, while others were huddled together in a limited area 

and yet were exposed to very varied influences. It is thus that 

j the secondary types, from which are descended the existing races, 

could have come into being. As to the type of man first created, 

the Adamite, we will leave him out of the argument altogether ; 

for it is impossible to know anything of his specific character, 

the science of climatology is the accurate knowledge of the inequalities 
of a continent's surface (hypsometry). Without this knowledge we are 
apt to attribute to elevation what is really the effect of other causes, 
acting, in low-lying regions, on a surface of which the curve is continuous 
with that of the sea, along the isothermic lines (i.e. lines along which 
the temperature is the same)." By calling attention to the multiplicity 
of influences acting on the temperature of any given geographical point, 
Von Humboldt shows how very different conditions of climate may exist 
in places that are quite near each other, independently of their height 
above sea-level. Thus in the north-east of Ireland, on the Glenarn coast, 
there is a region, on the same parallel of latitude as Konigsberg in Prussia, 
which produces myrtles growing in the open air quite as vigorously as in 
Portugal ; this region is in striking contrast with those round it. " There 
are hardly any frosts in winter, and the heat in summer is not enough to 
ripen the grapes. . . . The pools and small lakes of the Faroe Islands 
are not frozen over during the winter, in spite of the latitude (62 ). . . . 
In England, on the Devonshire coast, the myrtle, the camelia iaponica, 
the fuchsia coccinea, and the Boddleya globosa flourish in the open, 
unsheltered, throughout the winter. ... At Salcombe the winters are 
so mild that orange-trees have been seen, with fruit on them, sheltered 
by a wall and protected merely by screens " (pp. 147-48), 

K 145 


or how far each of the later families has kept or lost its likeness 
I to him. Our investigation will not take us further back than 
the races of the second stage. 

j I find these races naturally divided into three, and three only — 
|the white, the black, and the yellow.* If I use a basis of division 
suggested by the colour of the skin, it is not that I consider it 
either correct or happy, for the three categories of which I speak 
are not distinguished exactly by colour, which is a very complex 
and variable thing ; I have already said that certain facts in the 
conformation of the skeleton are far more important. But in 
default of inventing new names — which I do not consider myself 
justified in doing — I must make my choice from the vocabulary 
already in use. The terms may not be very good, but they are 
at any rate less open to objection than any others, especially if 
they are carefully defined. I certainly prefer them to all the 
designations taken from geography or history, for these have 
thrown an already confused subject into further confusion. 
So I may say, once for all, that I understand by white men the 
members of those races which are also called Caucasian, Semitic, 
or Japhetic. By black men I mean the Hamites ; by yellow the 
Altaic, Mongol, Finnish, and Tatar branches. These are the 
three primitive elements of mankind. There is no more reason 
to admit Blumenbach's twenty-eight varieties than Prichard's 
seven ; for both these schemes include notorious hybrids. It 
is probable that none of the three original types was ever found 
in absolute simplicity. The great cosmic agents had not merely 
brought into being the three clear-cut varieties ; they had also, 
in the course of their action, caused many sub-species to appear. 
These were distinguished by some peculiar features, quite apart 
from the general character which they had in common with the 
whole branch. Racial crossing was not necessary to create 

* I will explain in due course the reasons why I do not include the 
American Indian as a pure and primitive type. I have already given 
indications of my view on p. 112. Here I merely subscribe to the opinion 
of Flourens, who also recognizes only three great subdivisions of the 
species — those of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The names call for criticism 
but the divisions are in the main correct. 



these specific modifications ; they existed before any inter- 
breeding took place at all. It would be fruitless to try to identify 
them to-day in the hybrid agglomeration that constitutes what 
we call the " white race." It would be equally impossible with 
regard to the yellow race. Perhaps the black type has to some 
extent kept itself pure ; at any rate it has remained nearer its 
original form, and thus shows at first sight what, in the case of the 
other great human divisions, is not given by the testimony of our 
senses, but may be admitted on the strength of historical proof. 

The negroes have always perpetuated the original forms of 
their race, such as the prognathous type with woolly hair, the 
Hindu type of the Kamaun and the Deccan, and the Pelagian 
of Polynesia. New varieties have certainly been created from 
their intermixture ; this is the origin of what we may call the 
" tertiary types," which are seen in the white and yellow races, 
as well as the black. 

Much has been made of a noteworthy fact, which is used to-day 
as a sure criterion for determining the racial purity of a nation. 
This fact is the resemblance of face, shape, and general constitu- 
tion, including gesture and carriage. The further these resem- 
blances go, the less mixture of blood is there supposed to be in 
the whole people. On the other hand, the more crossing there 
has been, the greater differences we shall find in the features, 
stature, walk, and general appearance of the individuals. The 
fact is incontestable, and valuable conclusions may be drawn 
from it ; but the conclusions are a little different from those 
hitherto made. 

The first series of observations by which the fact was discovered 
was carried out on the Polynesians. Now, these are far from 
being of pure race ; they come from mixtures, in different pro- 
portions, of yellow and black. Hence the complete transmission 
of the type that we see to-day among the Polynesians shows, 
not the purity of the race, but simply that the more or less 
numerous elements of which it is composed have at last been 
fused in a full and homogeneous unity. Each man has the same 
blood in his veins as his neighbour, and so there is no reason 



/ why he should differ physically from him. Just as brothers and 
sisters are often much alike, as being produced from like elements, 
so, when two races have been so completely amalgamated that 
there is no group in the resulting people in which either race 
predominates, an artificial type is established, with a kind of 
factitious purity ; and every new-born child bears its impress. 
/ What I have defined as the " tertiary type " might in this way 
/easily acquire the quality that is wrongly appropriated to a people 
of absolutely pure race — namely the likeness of the individual 
members to each other. This could be attained in a much 
shorter time at this stage, as the differences between two varieties 
of the same type are relatively slight. In a family, for example, 
where the father and mother belong to different nations, the 
children will be like one or the other, but there will be little 
chance of any real identity of physical characteristics between 
them. If, however, the parents are both from the same national 
stock, such an identity will be easily produced. 

We must mention another law before going further. Crossing 
of blood does not merely imply the fusion of the two varieties, 
but also creates new characteristics, which henceforth furnish 
the most important standpoint from which to consider any 
particular sub-species. Examples will be given later ; mean- 
while I need hardly say that these new and original qualities 
cannot be completely developed unless there has previously been 
a perfect fusion of the parent-types ; otherwise the tertiary race 
cannot be considered as really established. The larger the two 
nations are, the greater will naturally be the time required for 
their fusion. But until the process is complete, and a state of 
physiological identity brought about, no new sub-species will 
be possible, as there is no question of normal development from 
an original, though composite source, but merely of the confusion 
and disorder that are always engendered from the imperfect 
mixture of elements which are naturally foreign to each other. 

Our actual knowledge of the life of these tertiary races is very 
slight. Only in the misty beginnings of human history can we 
catch a glimpse, in certain places, of the white race when it 



was still in this stage — a stage which seems to have been every- 
where short-lived. The civilizing instincts of these chosen 
peoples were continually forcing them to mix their blood with that 
of others. As for the black and yellow types, they are mere 
savages in the tertiary stage, and have no history at all.* 

To the tertiary races succeed others, which I will call 
" quaternary." The Polynesians, sprung from the mixture of 
| black and yellow,t the mulattoes, a blend of white and black, — 
these are among the peoples belonging to the quaternary type. 
I need hardly say, once more, that the new type brings the 
characteristics peculiar to itself more or less into harmony with 
those which recall its two-fold descent. 

When a quaternary race is again modified by the intervention 
of a new type, the resulting mixture has great difficulty in be- 
coming stable ; its elements are brought very slowly into harmony, 
and are combined in very irregular proportions. The original 
qualities of which it is composed are already weakened to a 
considerable extent, and become more and more neutralized. 
They tend to disappear in the confusion that has grown to be the 
main feature of the new product. The more this product repro- 
duces itself and crosses its blood, the more the confusion in- 
creases. It reaches infinity, when the people is too numerous 

* Cams gives his powerful support to the law I have laid down, namely 
that the civilizing races are especially prone to mix their blood. He 
points out the immense variety of elements composing the perfected 
human organism, as against the simplicity of the infinitesimal beings on 
the lowest step in the scale of creation. He deduces the following axiom : 
" Whenever there is an extreme likeness between the elements of an 
organic whole, its state cannot be regarded as the expression of a com- 
plete and final development, but is merely primitive and elementary " (ijber 
die ungleiche Befdhigkeit der verschiedenen Menschheitstdmme fur hohere 
geistige EntwicHelung, p. 4). In another place he says : " The greatest 
possible diversity (i.e. inequality) of the parts, together with the most 
complete unity of the whole, is clearly, in every sphere, the standard of 
the highest perfection of an organism." In the political world this is 
the state of a society where the governing classes are racially quite distinct 
from the masses, while being themselves carefully organised into a strict 

f Flourens (Eloge de Blumenbach, p. xi) describes the Polynesian race 
as " a mixture of two others, the Caucasian and the Mongolian." Cau- 
casian is probably a mere slip ; he certainly meant black. 



for any equilibrium to have a chance of being established — at any 
rate, not before long ages have passed. Such a people is merely 
an awful example of racial anarchy. In the individuals we find, 
here and there, a dominant feature reminding us in no uncertain 
way that blood from every source runs in their veins. One man 
will have the negro's hair, another the eyes of a Teuton, a third 
will have a Mongolian face, a fourth a Semitic figure ; and yet 
all these will be akin ! This is the state in which the great 
civilized nations are to-day ; we may especially see proofs of 
it in their sea-ports, capitals, and colonies, where a fusion of 
blood is more easily brought about. In Paris, London, Cadiz, 
and Constantinople, we find traits recalling every branch of 
mankind, and that without going outside the circle of the walls, 
or considering any but the so-called " native population." The 
lower classes will give us examples of all kinds, from the prog- 
nathous head of the negro to the triangular face and slanting eyes 
of the Chinaman ; for, especially since the Roman Empire, the 
most remote and divergent races have contributed to the blood 
of the inhabitants of our great cities. Commerce, peace, and 
war, the founding of colonies, the succession of invasions, have 
all helped in their turn to increase the disorder ; and if one could 
trace, some way back, the genealogical tree of the first man he 
met, he would probably be surprised at the strange company of 
ancestors among whom he would find himself.* 

We have shown that races differ physically from each other ; 
we must now ask if they are also unequal in beauty and muscular 
strength. The answer cannot be long doubtful. 

I have already observed that the human groups to which the 
European nations and their descendants belong are the most 
beautiful. One has only to compare the various types of men 
scattered over the earth's surface to be convinced of this. From 
the almost rudimentary face and structure of the Pelagian and 

* The physiological characteristics of the ancestors are reproduced in 
their descendants according to fixed rules. Thus we see in South America 
that though the children of a white man and a negress may have straight 
soft hair, yet the crisp woolly hair invariably appears in the second genera- 
tion (A. d'Orbigny, I' Homme americain, vol. i, p. 143). 



the Pecheray to the tall and nobly proportioned figure of Charle- 
magne, the intelligent regularity of the features of Napoleon, and 
the imposing majesty that exhales from the royal countenance 
of Louis XIV, there is a series of gradations ; the peoples who 
are not of white blood approach beauty, but do not attain it. 

Those who are most akin to us come nearest to beauty ; such 
are the degenerate Aryan stocks of India and Persia, and the 
Semitic peoples who are least infected by contact with the 
black race.* As these races recede from the white type, their 
features and limbs become incorrect in form ; they acquire 
defects of proportion which, in the races that are completely 
foreign to us, end by producing an extreme ugliness. This is 
the ancient heritage and indelible mark of the greater number 
of human groups. We can no longer subscribe to the doctrine 
(reproduced by Helvetius in his book on the " Human Intellect ") 
which regards the idea of the beautiful as purely artificial and 
variable. All who still have scruples on that point should con- 
sult the admirable " Essay on the Beautiful " of the Piedmontese 
philosopher, Gioberti ; and their doubts will be laid to rest. 
Nowhere is it better brought out that beauty is an absolute and 
necessary idea, admitting of no arbitrary application. I take 
my stand on the solid principles established by Gioberti, and 
have no hesitation in regarding the white race as superior 
to all others in beauty ; these, again, differ among them- 
selves in the degree in which they approach or recede from 
their model. Thus the human groups are unequal in beauty ; 
and this inequality is rational, logical, permanent, and in- 

Is there also an inequality in physical strength ? The 

American savages, like the Hindus, are certainly our inferiors in 

this respect, as are also the Australians. The negroes, too, have 

* It may be remarked that the happiest blend, from the point of view 
of beauty, is that made by the marriage of white and black. We need 
only put the striking charm of many mulatto, Creole, and quadroon 
women by the side of such mixtures of yellow and white as the Russians 
and Hungarians. The comparison is not to the advantage of the latter. 
It is no less certain that a beautiful Rajput is more ideally beautiful 
than the most perfect Slav. 



less muscular power ; * and all these peoples are infinitely less 
able to bear fatigue. We must distinguish, however, between 
purely muscular strength, which merely needs to spend itself 
for a single instant of victory, and the power of keeping up a 
prolonged resistance. The latter is far more typical than the 
former, of which we may find examples even in notoriously feeble 
races. If we take the blow of the fist as the sole criterion of 
strength, we shall find, among very backward negro races, among 
the New Zealanders (who are usually of weak constitution), among 
Lascars and Malays, certain individuals who can deliver such a 
blow as well as any Englishman. But if we take the peoples as 
a whole, and judge them by the amount of labour that they can 
go through without flinching, we shall give the palm to those 
belonging to the white race. 

The different groups within the white race itself are as unequal 
in strength as they are in beauty, though the difference is less 
marked. The Italians are more beautiful than the Germans or 
the Swiss, the French or the Spanish. Similarly, the English 
show a higher type of physical beauty than the Slav nations. 

In strength of fist, the English are superior to all the other 
European races ; while the French and Spanish have a greater 
power of resisting fatigue and privation, as well as the inclemency 
of extreme climates. The question is settled, so far as the 
French are concerned, by the terrible campaign in Russia. 
Nearly all the Germans and the northern troops, accustomed 
though they were to very low temperatures, sank down in the 
snow ; while the French regiments, though they paid their awful 
tribute to the rigours of the retreat, were yet able to save most 
of their number. This superiority has been attributed to their 
better moral education and military spirit. But such an ex- 
planation is insufficient. The German officers, who perished by 

* See (among other authorities), for the American aborigine, Martius 
and Spix, Reise in Brasilien, vol. i, p. 259 ; for the negroes, Pruner, Der 
Neger, eine aphoristisc/ie Skizze aus der medizinischen Topographie von 
Cairo, in the Zeitschrift der Deutschen morgenldndischen Gesellschafi, vol. i, 
p. 131 ; for the muscular superiority of the white race over all the others, 
Carus, op. oil., p. 84. 



hundreds, had just as high a sense of honour and duty as our 
soldiers had ; but this did not prevent them from going under. 
We may conclude that the French have certain physical qualities 
that are superior to those of the Germans, which allow them to 
brave with impunity the snows of Russia as well as the burning 
sands of Egypt. 




In order to appreciate the intellectual differences between races, 
we ought first to ascertain the degree of stupidity to which 
mankind can descend. We know already the highest point that 
it can reach, namely civilization. 

Most scientific observers up to now have been very prone 
to make out the lowest types as worse than they really are. 

Nearly all the early accounts of a savage tribe paint it in 
hideous colours, far more hideous than the reality. They give 
it so little power of reason and understanding, that it seems to be 
on a level with the monkey and below the elephant. It is true 
that we find the contrary opinion. If a captain is well received 
in an island, if he meets, as he believes, with a kind and hospitable 
welcome, and succeeds in making a few natives do a small amount 
of work with his sailors, then praises are showered on the happy 
people. They are declared to be fit for anything and capable 
of everything ; and sometimes the enthusiasm bursts all bounds, 
and swears it has found among them some higher intelligences. 

We must appeal from both judgments — harsh and favourable 
alike. The fact that certain Tahitians have helped to repair a 
whaler does not make their nation capable of civilization. Be- 
cause a man of Tonga-Tabu shows goodwill to strangers, he is not 
necessarily open to ideas of progress. Similarly, we are not 
entitled to degrade a native of a hitherto unknown coast to the 
level of the brute, just because he receives his first visitors with a 
flight of arrows, or because he is found eating raw lizards and 
mud pies. Such a banquet does not certainly connote a very 
high intelligence or very cultivated manners. But even in the 
most hideous cannibal there is a spark of the divine fire, and to 



some extent the flame of understanding can always be kindled 
in him. There are no tribes so low that they do not pass some 
judgments, true or false, just or unjust, on the things around them ; 
the mere existence of such judgments is enough to show that 
in every branch of mankind some ray of intelligence is kept alive. 
It is this that makes the most degraded savages accessible to the 
teachings of religion and distinguishes them in a special manner, 
of which they are themselves conscious, from even the most 
intelligent beasts. 

Are however these moral possibilities, which lie at the back 
of every man's consciousness, capable of infinite extension ? 
Do all men possess in an equal degree an unlimited power of 
intellectual development ? In other words, has every human 
race the capacity for becoming equal to every other ? The 
question is ultimately concerned with the infinite capacity for 
improvement possessed by the species as a whole, and with the 
equality of races. I deny both points. 

The idea of an infinite progress is very seductive to many 
modern philosophers, and they support it by declaring that 
our civilization has many merits and advantages which our 
differently trained ancestors did not possess. They bring forward 
all the phenomena that distinguished our modern societies. I 
have spoken of these already ; but I am glad to be able to go 
through them again. 

We are told that our scientific opinions are truer than they 
were ; that our manners are, as a rule, kindly, and our morals 
better than those of the Greeks and Romans. Especially with 
regard to political liberty, they say, have we ideas and feelings, 
beliefs and tolerances, that prove our superiority. There are 
even some hopeful theorists who maintain that our institutions 
should lead us straight to that garden of the Hesperides which 
was sought so long, and with such ill-success, since the time 
when the ancient navigators reported that it was not in the 
Canaries. . . . 

A little more serious consideration of history will show what 
truth there is in these high claims. 



We are certainly more learned than the ancients. This is 
because we have profited by their discoveries. If we have 
amassed more knowledge than they, it is merely because we are 
their heirs and pupils, and have continued their work. Does it 
follow that the discovery of steam-power and the solution of a 
few mechanical problems have brought us on the way to om- 
niscience ? At most, our success may lead us to explore all the 
secrets of the material world. Before we achieve this conquest, 
there are many things to do which have not even been begun, 
nay of which the very existence is not yet suspected ; but even 
when the victory is ours, shall we have advanced a single step 
beyond the bare affirmation of physical laws ? We shall, I 
agree, have greatly increased our power of influencing nature and 
harnessing her to our service. We shall have found different ways 
of going round the world, or recognized definitely that certain 
routes are impossible. We shall have learnt how to move freely 
about in the air, and, by mounting a few miles nearer the limits 
of the earth's atmosphere, discovered or cleared up certain astro- 
nomical or other problems ; but nothing more. All this does not 
lead us to infinity. Even if we had counted all the planetary 
systems that move through space, should we be any nearer ? 
Have we learnt a single thing about the great mysteries that was 
unknown to the ancients ? We have, merely, so far as I can see, 
changed the previous methods of circling the cave where the 
secret lies. We have not pierced its darkness one inch further. 

Again, admitting that we are in certain directions more en- 
lightened, yet we must have lost all trace of many things that 
were familiar to our remote ancestors. Can we doubt that at 
the time of Abraham far more was known about primeval history 
than we know to-day ? How many of our discoveries, made by 
chance or with great labour, are merely re-discoveries of forgotten 
knowledge ! Further, how inferior we are in many respects to 
those who have lived before us ! As I said above, in a different 
connexion, can one compare even our most splendid works to the 
marvels still to be seen in Egypt, India, Greece, and America ? 
And these bear witness to the vanished magnificence of many 



other buildings, which have been destroyed far less by the heavy 
hand of time than by the senseless ravages of man. What are 
our arts, compared with those of Athens ? What are our thinkers, 
compared with those of Alexandria and India ? What are our 
poets, by the side of Valmiki, Kalidasa, Homer, and Pindar ? 

Our work is, in fact, different from theirs. We have turned our 
minds to other inquiries and other ends than those pursued by 
the earlier civilized groups of mankind. But while tilling our 
new field, we have not been able to keep fertile the lands already 
cultivated. We have advanced on one flank, but have given 
ground on the other. It is a poor compensation ; and far from 
proving our progress, it merely means that we have changed our 
position. For a real advance to have been made, we should at 
least have preserved in their integrity the chief intellectual 
treasures of the earlier societies, and set up, in addition, certain 
great and firmly based conclusions at which the ancients had 
aimed as well as ourselves. Our arts and sciences, using theirs 
as the starting-point, should have discovered some new and 
profound truths about life and death, the genesis of living 
creatures, and the basic principles of the universe. On all these 
questions, modern science, as we imagine, has lost the visionary 
gleam that played round the dawn of antiquity, and its own 
efforts have merely brought it to the humiliating confession, " I 
seek and do not find." There has been no real progress in 
the intellectual conquests of man. Our power of criticism is 
certainly better than that of our forefathers. This is a con- 
siderable gain, but it stands alone ; and, after all, criticism 
merely means classification, not discovery. 

As for our so-called new ideas on politics, we may allow our- 
selves to be more disrespectful to them than to our sciences. 

The same fertility in theorizing, on which we so pride ourselves, 
was to be found at Athens after the death of Pericles. Anyone 
may be convinced of this by reading again the comedies of 
Aristophanes, and allowing for satirical exaggeration ; they were 
recommended by Plato himself as a guide to the public life of the 
city of Athene. We have always despised such comparisons, 



since we persuaded ourselves that a fundamental difference 
between our present social order and the ancient Greek State 
was created by slavery. It made for a more far-reaching 
demagogy, I admit ; but that is all. People spoke of slaves 
in the same way as one speaks to-day of workmen and the lower 
classes ; and, further, how very advanced the Athenians must 
have been, when they tried to please their servile population 
after the battle of Arginusae ! 

Let us now turn to Rome. If you open the letters of Cicero, 
you will find the Roman orator a moderate Tory of to-day. 
His republic is exactly like our constitutional societies, in all that 
relates to the language of parties and Parliamentary squabbles. 
There too, in the lower depths, seethed a population of degraded 
slaves, with revolt ever in their hearts, and sometimes in their 
fists also. We will leave this mob on one side ; and we can do it 
the more readily as the law did not recognize their civil existence. 
They did not count in politics, and their influence was limited 
to times of uproar. Even then, they merely carried out the 
commands of the revolutionaries of free birth. 

Regarding, then, the slaves as of no account, does not the 
Forum offer us all the constituents of a modern social State ? 
The populace, demanding bread and games, free doles and the 
right to enjoy them ; the middle class, which succeeded in its 
aim of monopolizing the public services ; the patriciate, always 
being transformed and giving ground, always losing its rights, 
until even its defenders agreed, as their one means of defence, 
to refuse all privileges and merely claim liberty for all ; — have 
we not here an exact correspondence with our own time ? 

Does anyone believe that of the opinions we hear expressed 
to-day, however various they may be, there is a single one, 
or any shade of one, that was not known at Rome ? I spoke 
above of the letters written from the Tusculan Villa : they con- 
tain the thoughts of a Conservative with progressive leanings. 
As against Sulla, Pompeius and Cicero were Liberals. They were 
not liberal enough for Caesar, and were too much so for Cato. 
Later, under the Principate, we find a moderate Royalist in 



Pliny the Younger, though one who loved tranquillity. He was 
against excessive liberty for the people, and excessive power for 
the Emperor. His views were positivist ; he thought little of 
the vanished splendours of the age of the Fabii, and preferred 
the prosaic administration of a Trajan. Not everyone agreed 
with him. Many feared another insurrection like that of Spar- 
tacus, and thought that the Emperor could not make too despotic 
a use of his power. On the other hand, some of the provincials 
asked for, and obtained, what we should call constitutional 
guarantees ; while Socialist opinions found so highly placed a 
representative as the Gallic Emperor Gaius Junius Postumus, 
who set down, among his subjects for declamation, Dives et 
pauper inimici, " The rich and the poor are natural enemies." 

In fact, every man who had any claim to share in the enlighten- 
ment of the time strongly asserted the equality of the human race, 
the right of all men to have their part in the good things of this 
world, the obvious necessity of the Grseco-Roman civilization, 
its perfection and refinement, its certainty of a future progress 
even beyond its present state, and, to crown all, its existence for 
ever. These ideas were not merely the pride and consolation of 
the pagans ; they inspired also the firm hopes of the first and 
most illustrious Fathers of the Church, of whose views Tertullian 
was the self-constituted interpreter.* 

Finally — to complete the picture with a last striking trait — 
the most numerous party of all was formed by the indifferent, 
the people who were too weak or timid, too sceptical or con- 
temptuous, to find truth in the midst of all the divergent theories 
that passed kaleidoscopically before their eyes ; who loved order 
when it existed, and (so far as they could) endured disorder 
when it came ; who were always wondering at the progress of 
material comforts unknown to their fathers, and who, without 
wishing to think too much of the other side, consoled themselves 
by repeating over and over again, " Wonderful are the works of 
to-day ! " 

* Amedee Thierry, Histoive de la Gentle sous V administration romaine, 
vol. i, p. 241. 



There would be more reason to believe that we have made 
improvements in political science, if we had invented some 
machinery that was unknown, in its essentials, before our time. 
Such a glory is not ours. Limited monarchies, for example, have 
been familiar to every age, and curious instances can be seen 
among certain American tribes, which in other respects have 
remained savage. Democratic and aristocratic republics of all 
kinds, balanced in the most various ways, have existed in the 
New as well as the Old World. Tlaxcala is just as good an example 
as Athens, Sparta, and Mecca before Mohammed's time. Even 
if it were shown that we had ourselves made some secondary 
improvements in the art of government, would this be enough 
to justify such a sweeping assertion as that the human race is 
capable of unlimited progress ? Let us be as modest as that 
wisest of kings, when he said, " There is nothing new under the 
sun." * 

* One is sometimes led to consider the government of the United States 
of America as an original creation, peculiar to our time ; its most remark- 
able feature is taken to be the small amount of opportunity left for Govern- 
ment initiative or even interference. Yet if we cast our eyes over the 
early years of all the States founded by the white race, we shall find exactly 
the same phenomenon. "Self-government" is no more triumphant in 
New York to-day, than it was in Paris, at the time of the Franks. It is 
true that the Indians are treated far less humanely by the Americans 
than the Gallo-Romans were by the nobles of Chlodwig. But we must 
remember that the racial difference between the enlightened Republicans 
of the New World and their victims is far greater than that between the 
Germanic conqueror and those he conquered. 

In fact, all Aryan societies began by exaggerating their independence 
as against the law and the magistrates. 

The power of political invention possessed by the world cannot, I think, 
travel outside the boundaries traced by two particular peoples, one of 
them living in the north-east of Europe, the other on the banks of the 
Nile, in the extreme south of Egypt. The Government of the first of 
these peoples (in Bolgari, near Kazan) was accustomed to " order men of 
intelligence to be hanged " as a preventive measure. We owe our know- 
ledge of this interesting fact to the Arabian traveller Ibn Foszlan (A. 
von Humboldt, Asie centrale, vol. i, p. 494). In the other nation, living at 
Fazoql, whenever the king did not give satisfaction, his relations and 
ministers came and told him so. They informed him that since he no 
longer pleased " the men, women, children, oxen, asses," &c, the best 
thing he could do was to die ; they then proceeded to help him to his 
death as speedily as possible (Lepsius, Briefe aus Agypten, Athiopien, und 
der Halbinsel des Sinai ; Berlin, 1852). 



We come now to the question of manners. Ours are said to 
be gentler than those of the other great human societies ; but 
this is very doubtful. 

There are some rhetoricians to-day who would like to abolish 
war between nations. They have taken this theory from Seneca. 
Certain wise men of the East had also, on this subject, views that 
are precisely similar to those of the Moravian brotherhood. 
But even if the friends of universal peace succeeded in making 
Europe disgusted with the idea of war, they would still have to 
bring about a permanent change in the passions of mankind. 
Neither Seneca nor the Brahmans obtained such a victory. It is 
doubtful whether we are to succeed where they failed ; especially 
as we may still see in our fields and our streets the bloody traces 
left by our so-called " humanity." 

I agree that our principles are pure and elevated. Does our 
practice correspond to them ? 

Before we congratulate ourselves on our achievements, let us 
wait till our modern countries can boast of two centuries of peace, 
as could Roman Italy,* the example of which has unfortunately 
not been followed by later ages ; for since the beginning of 
modern civilization fifty years have never passed without 

The capacity for infinite progress is, thus, not shown by the 
present state of our civilization. Man has been able to learn 
some things, but has forgotten many others. He has not added 
one sense to his senses, one limb to his limbs, one faculty to his 
soul. He has merely explored another region of the circle in 
which he is confined, and even the comparison of his destiny 
with that of many kinds of birds and insects does not always 
inspire very consoling thoughts as to his happiness in this life. 

The bees, the ants, and the termites have found for themselves, 
from the day of their creation, the land of life that suited them. 
The last two, in their communities, have invented a way of 
building their houses, laying in their provisions, and looking after 
their eggs, which in the opinion of naturalists could be neither 
* Amedee Thierry, op. cil., vol. i, p. 241. 

L l6l 


altered nor improved.* Such as it is, it has always been sufficient 
for the small wants of the creatures who use it. Similarly the 
bees — with their monarchical government, which admits of the 
deposition of the sovereign but not of a social revolution — have 
never for a single day turned aside from the manner of life that is 
most suitable to their needs. Metaphysicians were allowed for a 
long time to call animals machines, and to assign the cause of 
their movements to God, who was the " soul of the brutes," 
anima brutomm. Now that the habits of these so-called automata 
are studied in a more careful way, we have not merely given up 
this contemptuous theory ; we have even recognized that 
instinct has a capacity that raises it almost to the dignity of 

In the bee-kingdom, we see the queens a prey to the anger of 
their subjects ; this implies either a spirit of mutiny in the latter, 
or the inability of the former to fulfil their lawful obligations. 
We see too the termites sparing their conquered enemies, and 
then making them prisoners, and employing them in the public 
service by giving them the care of the young. What are we to 
conclude from such facts as these ? 

Our modern States are certainly more complicated, and satisfy 
our needs in larger measure : but when I see the savage wandering 
on his way, fierce, sullen, idle, and dirty, lazily dragging his feet 
along his uncultivated ground, carrying the pointed stick that is 
his only weapon, and followed by the wife whom he has bound 
to him by a marriage-ceremony consisting solely in an empty and 
ferocious violence ; | when I see the wife carrying her child, whom 
she will kill with her own hands if he falls ill, or even if he worries 

* Martius and Spix, Reise in Brasilien, vol. iii, p. 950, &c. 

f In many tribes of Oceania the institution of marriage is conceived as 
follows : — A man sees a maiden, who, he thinks, will suit him. He obtains 
her from her father, by means of a few presents, among which a bottle of 
brandy, if he has been able to get one, holds the most distinguished place. 
Then the young suitor proceeds to conceal himself in a thicket, or behind 
a rock. The maiden passes by, thinking no harm. He knocks her down 
with a blow of his stick, beats her until she becomes unconscious, and 
carries her lovingly to his house, bathed in her blood. The formalities 
have been complied with, and the legal union is accomplished. 



her ; * when I see this miserable group under the pressure of 
hunger, suddenly stop, in its search for food, before a hill peopled 
by intelligent ants, gape at it in wonder, put their feet through 
it, seize the eggs and devour them, and then withdraw sadly into 
the hollow of a rock, — when I see all this, I ask myself whether the 
insects that have just perished are not more highly gifted than 
the stupid family of the destroyer, and whether the instinct of 
the animals, restricted as it is to a small circle of wants, does not 
really make them happier than the faculty of reason which has 
left our poor humanity naked on the earth, and a thousand times 
more exposed than any other species to the sufferings caused 
by the united agency of air, sun, rain, and snow. Man, in his 
wretchedness, has never succeeded in inventing a way of pro- 
viding the whole race with clothes or in putting them beyond 
the reach of hunger and thirst. It is true that the knowledge 
possessed by the lowest savage is more extensive than that of 
any animal ; but the animals know what is useful to them, and 
we do not. They hold fast to what knowledge they have, but we 
often cannot keep what we have ourselves discovered. They are 
always, in normal seasons, sure of satisfying their needs by their 
instincts. But there are numerous tribes of men that from the 
beginning of their history have never been able to rise above a 
stinted and precarious existence. So far as material well-being 
goes, we are no better than the animals ; our horizon is wider than 
theirs, but, like theirs, it is still cramped and bounded. 

I have hardly insisted enough on this unfortunate tendency 
of mankind to lose on one side what it gains on the other. Yet 
this is the great fact that condemns us to wander through our 
intellectual domains without ever succeeding, in spite of their 
narrow limits, in holding them all at the same time. If this fatal 
law did not exist, it might well happen that at some date in the 

* D'Orbigny tells how Indian mothers love their children to distraction, 
and take such care of them as to be really their slaves. If however the 
child annoys the mother at any time, then she drowns him or crushes 
him to death, or abandons him in the forest, without any regret. I know 
no other example of such an extraordinary change (D'Orbigny, L'Homme 
americain, vol. ii, p. 232). 



dim future, when man had gathered together all the wisdom of all 
the ages, knowing what he had power to know and possessing all 
that was within his reach, he might at last have learnt how to 
apply his wealth, and live in the midst of nature, at peace with 
his kind and no longer at grips with misery ; and having gained 
tranquillity after all his struggles, he might find his ultimate rest, 
if not in a state of absolute perfection, at any rate in the midst 
of joy and abundance. 

Such happiness, with all its limitations, is not even possible for 
us, since man unlearns as fast as he learns ; he cannot gain 
intellectually and morally without losing physically, and he does 
not hold any of his conquests strongly enough to be certain of 
keeping them always. 

We moderns believe that our civilization will never perish, 
because we have discovered printing, steam, and gunpowder. 
Has printing, which is no less known to the inhabitants of Tonkin 
and Annam* than in Europe, managed to give them even a 
tolerable civilization ? They have books, and many of them — 
books which are sold far cheaper than ours. How is it that these 
peoples are so weak and degraded, so near the point where 
civilized man, strengthless, cowardly, and corrupted, is inferior 
in intellectual power to any barbarian who may seize the oppor- 
tunity to crush him ? f The reason is, that printing is merely 
a means and not an end. If you use it to disseminate healthy and 
vigorous ideas, it will serve a most fruitful purpose and help to 
maintain civilization. If, on the other hand, the intellectual 
life of a people is so debased that no one any longer prints such 
works of philosophy, history, and literature, as can give strong 

* " The native Indian trade in books is very active, and many of the 
works produced are never seen in the libraries of Europeans, even in 
India. Sprenger says, in a letter, that in Lucknow alone there are thirteen 
lithographic establishments occupied purely in printing school-books, 
and he gives a considerable list of works of which probably not one has 
reached Europe. The same is the case at Delhi, Agra, Cawnpore, Alla- 
habad, and other towns " (Mohl, Rapport annuel a la Sociitt asiatique, 
1851, p. 92). 

I " The Siamese are the most shameless people in the world. They are 
at the lowest point of Indo-Chinese civilization ; and yet they can all read 
and write " (Ritter, Erdkunde, Asien, vol. iii, p. 11 52). 



nourishment to a nation's genius ; if the degraded press merely 
serves to multiply the unhealthy and poisonous compilations of 
enervated minds, if its theology is the work of sectaries, it's 
politics of libellers, its poetry of libertines, — then how and why 
should the printing-press be the saviour of civilization ? 

Because copies of the great masterpieces can be easily multi- 
plied, it is supposed that printing helps to preserve them ; and 
that in times of intellectual barrenness, when they have no other 
competitors, printing can at least make them accessible to the 
nobler minds of the age. This is of course true. Yet if a man 
is to trouble himself about an ancient book at all, or gain any 
improvement from it, he must already have the precious gift of 
an enlightened mind. In evil times, when public virtue has 
left the earth, ancient writings are of little account, and no 
one cares to disturb the silence of the libraries. A man must be 
already worth something before he thinks of entering these 
august portals ; but in such times no one is worth anything. . . . 

Further, the length of life assured by Gutenberg's discovery 
to the achievements of the human mind is greatly exaggerated. 
With the exception of a few works which are from time to time 
reprinted, all books are dying to-day, as manuscripts died in the 
old days. Scientific works especially, which are published in 
editions of a few hundred copies, soon disappear from the common 
stock. They can still be found, though with difficulty, in large 
collections. The intellectual treasures of antiquity were in 
exactly the same case ; and, I repeat, learning will not save 
a people which has fallen into its dotage. 

What have become of the thousands of admirable books 
published since the first printing-press was set up ? Most of 
them have been forgotten. Many of those that are still spoken of 
have no longer any readers, while the very names of the authors 
who were in demand fifty years ago are gradually fading from 

In the attempt to heighten the influence of printing, too little 
stress has been laid on the great diffusion of manuscripts that 
preceded it. At the time of the Roman Empire, opportunities 



for education were very general, and books must have been 
very common indeed, if we look at the extraordinary number of 
out-at-elbows grammarians, whose poverty, licentiousness, and 
passionate search for enjoyment live for us in the Satyricon of 
Petronius. They swarmed even in the smallest towns, and may 
be compared to the novelists, lawyers, and journalists of our 
own age. Even when the decadence was complete, anyone 
who wanted books could get them. Virgil was read everywhere. 
The peasants who heard his praises took him for a dangerous 
enchanter. The monks copied him. They copied also Pliny, 
Dioscorides, Plato, Aristotle, even Catullus and Martial. From 
the great number of mediaeval manuscripts that remain after so 
much war and pillage, after the burning of so many castles and 
abbeys, we may guess that far more copies than one thinks were 
made of contemporary works, literary, scientific, and philoso- 
phical. We exaggerate the real services done by printing to 
science, poetry, morality, and civilization ; it would be better 
if we merely touched lightly on these merits and spoke more of the 
way in which the invention of printing is continually helping all 
kinds of religious and political interests. Printing, I say again, 
is a marvellous tool ; but when head and hand fail, a tool cannot 
work by itself. 

Gunpowder has no more power than printing to save a society 
that is in danger of death. The knowledge of how to make it 
will certainly never be forgotten. I doubt, however, whether 
the half-civilized peoples who use it to-day as much as we do 
ourselves, ever look upon it from any other point of view than 
that of destruction. 

As for steam-power and the various industrial discoveries, 
they too, like printing, are most excellent means, but not ends 
in themselves. I may add that some processes which began as 
scientific discoveries ended as matters of routine, when the 
intellectual movement that gave them birth had stopped for ever, 
and the theoretical secrets at the back of the processes had been 
lost. Finally, material well-being has never been anything but 
an excrescence on civilization ; no one has ever heard of a 



society that persisted solely through its knowledge of how to 
travel quickly and make fine clothes. 

All the civilizations before our own have thought, as we do, 
hat th ey were set firmly on the rock of time by their unforgettable 
discoveries. They all believed in their immortality. The Incas 
and their families, who travelled swiftly in their palanquins on 
the excellent roads, fifteen hundred miles long, that still link 
Cuzco to Quito, were certainly convinced that their conquests 
would last for ever. Time, with one blow of his wing, has hurled 
their empire, like so many others, into the uttermost abyss. 
These kings of Peru also had their sciences, their machinery, 
their powerful engines, at the work of which we still stand 
amazed without being able to guess their construction. They 
too knew the secret of carrying enormous masses from place to 
place. They built fortresses by piling, one upon the other, 
blocks of stone thirty-eight feet long and eighteen wide, such as 
may be seen in the ruins of Tihuanaco, to which these gigantic 
building-materials must have been brought from a distance of 
many miles. Do we know the means used by the engineers of 
this vanished people to solve such a problem ? No more than 
we know how the vast Cyclopean walls were constructed, the 
ruins of which, in many parts of Southern Europe, still defy the 
ravages of time. 

We must not confuse the causes of a civilization with its results. 
The causes disappear, and the results are forgotten, when the 
spirit that gave them birth has departed. If they persist, it is 
because of a new spirit that takes hold of them, and often succeeds 
in giving quite a new direction to their activities. The human 
mind is always in motion. It runs from one point to another, 
but cannot be in all places at once. It exalts what it embraces, 
and forgets what it has abandoned. Held prisoner for ever 
within a circle whose bounds it may not overstep, it never 
manages to cultivate one part of its domain without leaving the 
others fallow. It is always at the same time superior and inferior 
to its forbears. Mankind never goes beyond itself, and so isi 
not capable of infinite progress. 5 




If the human races were equal, the course of history would form 
an affecting, glorious, and magnificent picture. The races would 
all have been equally intelligent, with a keen eye for their true 
interests and the same aptitude for conquest and domination. 
Early in the world's history, they would have gladdened the 
face of the earth with a crowd of civilizations, all flourishing at 
the same time, and all exactly alike. At the moment when the 
most ancient Sanscrit peoples were founding their empire, and, 
by means of religion and the sword, were covering Northern India 
with harvests, towns, palaces, and temples ; at the moment when 
the first Assyrian Empire was crowning the plains of the Tigris 
and Euphrates with its splendid buildings, and the chariots and 
horsemen of Nimroud were defying the four winds, we should 
have seen, on the African coast, among the tribes of the prog- 
nathous negroes, the rise of an enlightened and cultured social 
state, skilful in adapting means to ends, and in possession of great 
wealth and power. 

The Celts, in the course of their migrations, would have 
carried with them to the extreme west of Europe the necessary 
elements of a great society, as well as some tincture of the ancient 
wisdom of the East ; they would certainly have found, among 
the Iberian peoples spread over the face of Italy, in Gaul and 
Spain and the islands of the Mediterranean, rivals as well 
schooled as themselves in the early traditions, as expert as they 
in the arts and inventions required for civilization. 

Mankind, at one with itself, would have nobly walked the earth, 



rich in understanding, and founding everywhere societies re- 
sembling each other. All nations would have judged their needs 
in the same way, asked nature for the same things, and viewed 
her from the same angle. A short time would have been suffi- 
cient for them to get into close contact with each other and to 
form the complex network of relations that is everywhere so 
necessary and profitable for progress. 

The tribes that were unlucky enough to live on a barren soil, 
at the bottom of rocky gorges, on the shores of ice-bound seas,' 
or on steppes for ever swept by the north winds— these might 
have had to battle against the unkindness of nature for a longer 
time than the more favoured peoples. But in the end, having no 
less wisdom and understanding than the others, they would not 
have been backward in discovering that the rigours of a climate 
has its remedies. They would have shown the intelligent activity 
we see to-day among the Danes, the Norwegians, and the Ice- 
landers. They would have tamed the rebellious soil, and forced 
it, in spite of itself, to be productive. In mountainous regions, 
we should have found them leading a pastoral life, like the Swiss,' 
or developing industries like those of Cashmere. If their climate 
had been so bad, and its situation so unfavourable, that there 
was obviously nothing to be done with it, then the thought 
would have struck them that the world was large, and contained 
many valleys and kindly plains ; they would have left their 
ungrateful country, and soon have found a land where they 
could turn their energy and intelligence to good account. 

Then the nations of the earth, equally enlightened and equally 
rich, some by the commerce of their seething maritime cities, 
some by the agriculture of their vast and flourishing prairies', 
others by the industries of a mountainous district, others again 
by the facilities for transport afforded them by their central 
position— all these, in spite of the temporary quarrels, civil wars, 
and seditions inseparable from our condition as men, might soon 
have devised some system of balancing their conflicting interests. 
Civilizations identical in origin would, by a long process of give 
and take, have ended by being almost exactly alike ; one might 



then have seen established that federation of the world which has 
been the dream of so many centuries, and which would inevitably 
be realized if all races were actually gifted, in the same degree, 
with the same powers. 

But we know that such a picture is purely fantastic. The first 
peoples worthy of the name came together under the inspiration 
of an idea of union which the barbarians who lived more or less 
near them not only failed to conceive so quickly, but never 
conceived at all. The early peoples emigrated from their first 
home and came across other peoples, which they conquered ; 
but these again neither understood nor ever adopted with any 
intelligence the main ideas in the civilization which had been 
imposed on them. Far from showing that all the tribes of man- 
kind are intellectually alike, the nations capable of civilization 
have always proved the contrary, first by the absolutely different 
foundations on which they based their states, and secondly by 
the marked antipathy which they showed to each other. The 
force of example has never awakened any instinct, in any people, 
which did not spring from their own nature. Spain and the 
Gauls saw the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and the Carthaginians, 
set up flourishing towns, one after the other, on their coasts. 
But both Spain and the Gauls refused to copy the manners and 
the government of these great trading powers. When the 
Romans came as conquerors, they only succeeded in introducing 
a different spirit by filling their new dominions with Roman 
colonies. Thus the case of the Celts and the Iberians shows that 
civilization cannot be acquired without the crossing of blood. 

Consider the position of the American Indians at the present 
day. They live side by side with a people which always 
wishes to increase in numbers, to strengthen its power. They see 
thousands of ships passing up and down their waterways. They 
know that the strength of their masters is irresistible. They have 
no hope whatever of seeing their native land one day delivered 
from the conqueror ; their whole continent is henceforth, as they 
all know, the inheritance of the European. A glance is enough 
to convince them of the tenacity of those foreign institutions 



under which human life ceases to depend, for its continuance, on 
the abundance of game or fish. From their purchases of brandy, 
guns, and blankets, they know that even their own coarse tastes 
would be more easily satisfied in the midst of such a society, 
which is always inviting them to come in, and which seeks, by 
bribes and flattery, to obtain their consent. It is always refused. 
They prefer to flee from one lonely spot to another ; they bury 
themselves more and more in the heart of the country, abandoning 
all, even the bones of their fathers. They will die out, as they 
know well ; but they are kept, by a mysterious feeling of horror, 
under the yoke of their unconquerable repulsion from the white 
race, and although they admire its strength and general 
superiority, their conscience and their whole nature, in a word, 
their blood, revolts from the mere thought of having anything 
in common with it. 

In Spanish America less aversion is felt by the natives towards 
their masters. The reason is that they were formerly left by the 
central Government under the rule of their Caciques. The 
Government did not try to civilize them ; it allowed them to 
keep their own laws and customs, and, provided they became 
Christians, merely required them to pay tribute. There was no 
question of colonization. Once the conquest was made, the 
Spaniards showed a lazy tolerance to the conquered, and only 
oppressed them spasmodically. This is why the Indians of 
South America are less unhappy than those of the north, and 
continue to live on, whereas the neighbours of the Anglo-Saxons 
will be pitilessly driven down into the abyss. 

Civilization is incommunicable, not only to savages, but also 
to more enlightened nations. This is shown by the efforts of 
French goodwill and conciliation in the ancient kingdom of 
Algiers at the present day, as well as by the experience of the 
English in India, and the Dutch in Java. There are no more 
striking and conclusive proofs of the unlikeness and inequality 
of races. 

We should be wrong to conclude that the barbarism of certain 
tribes is so innate that no kind of culture is possible for them. 




Traces may be seen, among many savage peoples, of a state of 
things better than that obtaining now. Some tribes, otherwise 
sunk in brutishness, hold to traditional rules, of a curious com- 
plexity, in the matter of marriage, inheritance, and government. 
Their rites are unmeaning to-day, but they evidently go back 
to a higher order of ideas. The Red Indians are brought forward 
as an example ; the vast deserts over which they roam are 
supposed to have been once the settlements of the Alleghanians.* 
Others, such as the natives of the Marianne Islands, have methods 
of manufacture which they cannot have invented themselves. 
They hand them down, without thought, from father to son, 
and employ them quite mechanically. 

When we see a people in a state of barbarism, we must look 
more closely before concluding that this has always been their 
condition. We must take many other facts into account, if 
we would avoid error. 

Some peoples are caught in the sweep of a kindred race ; 
they submit to it more or less, taking over certain customs, and 
following them out as far as possible. On the disappearance of 
the dominant race, either by expulsion, or by a complete absorp- 
tion in the conquered people, the latter ^allows the culture, 
especially its root principles, to die out almost entirely, and 
retains only the small part it has been able to understand. 
Even this cannot happen except among nations related by 
blood. This was the attitude of the Assyrians towards the 
Chaldean culture, of the Syrian and Egyptian Greeks towards 
the Greeks of Europe, of the Iberians, Celts, and Illyrians in 
face of the Roman ideas. If the Cherokees, the Catawhas, the 
Muskhogees, the Seminoles, the Natchez, and the like, still 
show some traces of the Alleghanian intelligence, I cannot indeed 
infer that they are of pure blood, and directly descended from 
the originating stock — this would mean that a race that was 
once civilized can lose its civilization ; — I merely say that if any 
of them derives from the ancient conquering type as its source, 
the stream is a muddy one, and has been mingled with many 
* Prichard, " Natural History of Man," sec. 41. 



tributaries on the way. If it were otherwise, the Cherokees 
would never have fallen into barbarism. As for the other and 
less gifted tribes, they seem to represent merely the dregs of the 
indigenous population, which was forced by the foreign con- 
querors to combine together to form the basic elements of a new 
social state. It is not surprising that these remnants of civiliza- 
tion should have preserved, without understanding them, laws, 
rites, and customs invented by men cleverer than themselves ; 
they never knew their meaning or theoretical principles, or 
regarded them as anything but objects of superstitious venera- 
tion. The same argument applies to the traces of mechanical 
skill found among them. The methods so admired by travellers 
may well have been ultimately derived from a finer race that 
has long disappeared. Sometimes we must look even further 
for their origin. Thus, the working of mines was known to the 
Iberians, Aquitanians, and the Bretons of the Scilly Isles ; but 
the secret was first discovered in Upper Asia, and thence brought 
long ago by the ancestors of the Western peoples in the course of 
their migration. 

The natives of the Caroline Islands are almost the most inter- 
esting in Polynesia. Their looms, their carved canoes, their 
taste for trade and navigation put a deep barrier between them 
and the other negroes. It is not hard to see how they come to 
have these powers. They owe them to the Malay blood in their 
veins ; and as, at the same time, their blood is far from being 
pure, their racial gifts have survived only in a stunted and 
degraded form. 

We must not therefore infer, from the traces of civilization 
existing among a barbarous people, that it has ever been really 
civilized. It has lived under the dominion of another tribe, of 
kindred blood but superior to it ; or perhaps, by merely living 
close to the other tribe, it has, feebly and humbly, imitated its 
customs. The savage races of to-day have always been savage, 
and we are right in concluding, by analogy, that they will continue 
to be so, until the day when they disappear. 

Their disappearance is inevitable as soon as two entirely 



unconnected races come into active contact ; and the best proof 
is the fate of the Polynesians and the American Indians. 

The preceding argument has established the following facts : 

(i) The tribes which are savage at the present day have 
always been so, and always will be, however high the civilizations 
with which they are brought into contact. 

(ii) For a savage people even to go on living in the midst of 
civilization, the nation which created the civilization must be a 
nobler branch of the same race. 

(iii) This is also necessary if two distinct civilizations are to 
affect each other to any extent, by an exchange of qualities, 
and give birth to other civilizations compounded from their 
elements. That they should ever be fused together is of course 
out of the question. 

(iv) The civilizations that proceed from two completely foreign 
races can only touch on the surface. They never coalesce, and 
the one will always exclude the other. I will say more about 
this last point, as it has not been sufficiently illustrated. 

The fortune of war brought the Persian civilization face to face 
with the Greek, the Greek with the Roman, the Egyptian with 
both Roman and Greek ; similarly the modern European civili- 
zation has confronted all those existing to-day in the world, 
especially the Arabian. 

The relations of Greek with Persian culture were manifold and 
inevitable. A large part of the Hellenic population — the richest, 
if not the most independent — was concentrated in the towns 
of the Syrian littoral, and in the colonies of Asia Minor and the 
Euxine. These were, soon after their foundation, absorbed in 
the dominions of the Great King ; the inhabitants lived under the 
eye of the satrap, though to a certain extent they retained their 
democratic institutions. Again, Greece proper, the Greece that 
was free, was always in close contact with the cities of the Asiatic 

Were the civilizations of the two countries ever fused into 
one ? We know they were not. The Greeks regarded their 
powerful enemies as barbarians, and their contempt was probably 



returned with interest. The two nations were continually 
coming into contact, but their political ideas, their private habits, 
the inner meaning of their public rites, the scope of their art, 
and the forms of their government, remained quite distinct. 
At Ecbatana only one authority was recognized ; it was heredi- 
tary, and limited in certain traditional ways, but was otherwise 
absolute. In Hellas the power was subdivided among a crowd 
of different sovereigns. The government was monarchical at 
Sparta, democratic at Athens, aristocratic at Sicyon, tyrannic 
in Macedonia — a strange medley ! Among the Persians, the 
State-religion was far nearer to the primitive idea of emanation ; 
it showed the same tendency to unity as the government itself 
did, and had a moral and metaphysical significance that was not 
without a certain philosophic depth. The Greek symbolism, 
on the other hand, was concerned merely with the various out- 
ward appearances of nature, and issued in a glorification of the 
human form. Religion left the business of controlling a man's 
conscience to the laws of the State ; as soon as the due rites were 
performed, and his meed of honour paid to the local god or hero, 
the office of faith was complete. Further, the rites themselves, 
the gods, and the heroes, were different in places a few miles 
apart. If, in some sanctuaries like Olympia or Dodona, we 
seem to find the worship, not of some special force of nature, 
but of the cosmic principle itself, such a unity only makes the 
diversity of the rest more remarkable ; for this kind of worship 
was confined to a few isolated places. Besides, the oracle 
of Dodona and the cult of the Olympian Zeus were foreign 

As for the private customs of the Greeks, it is hardly necessary 
to show how much they differed from those of the Persians. For 
a rich, pleasure-loving, and cosmopolitan youth to imitate the 
habits of rivals far more luxurious and outwardly refined than 
the Greeks, was to bring himself into public contempt. Until 
the time of Alexander — in other words, during the great, fruitful 
and glorious period of Hellenism — Persia, in spite of its continual 
pressure, could not convert Greece to its civilization. 



With the coming of Alexander, this was curiously confirmed. 
Men believed for a moment, when they saw Hellas conquering 
the kingdom of Darius, that Asia was about to become Greek, 
or, still better, that the acts of violence wrought in the madness 
of a single night by the conqueror against the monuments 
of the country were, in their very excess, a proof of contempt 
as well as hatred. But the burner of Persepolis soon changed 
his mind. The change was so complete that his design at last 
became apparent ; it was to substitute himself purely and 
simply for the dynasty of the Achaemenidae, and to rule like 
his predecessor or the great Xerxes, with Greece as an appanage 
of his empire. In this way, the Persian social system might 
have absorbed that of the Greeks. 

In spite, however, of all Alexander's authority, nothing of the 
kind happened. His generals and soldiers never became used 
to seeing him in his long clinging robe, wearing a turban on his 
head, surrounded by eunuchs and denying his country. After 
his death, his system was continued by some of his successors ; 
they were, however, forced to mitigate it. And why, as a fact, 
were they able to find the middle term which became the normal 
condition of the Asiatics of the coast and the Graeco-Egyptians ? 
Simply because their subjects consisted of a mixed population 
of Greeks, Syrians, and Arabs, who had no reason to refuse the 
compromise. Where, however, the races remained distinct, 
all terms of union were impossible, and each country held to its 
national culture. 

Similarly, right up to the last days of the Roman Empire, 
the hybrid civilization that was dominant ail over the East, 
including Greece proper, had become much more Asiatic than 
Greek, owing to the great preponderance of Asiatic blood in the 
mass of the people. The intellectual life, it is true, took pride 
in being Hellenic. But it is not hard to find, in the thought of 
the time, an Oriental strain vitalizing all the products of the 
Alexandrian school, such as the " centralized state " idea of the 
Grseco-Syrian jurists. We see how the different racial elements 
were balanced, and to which side the scale inclined. 



Other civilizations may be compared in the same way; and 
before ending this chapter, I will say a few words about the 
relation between Arab culture and our own. 

No one can doubt their mutual repulsion. Our mediaeval 
ancestors had opportunities of seeing at close quarters the 
marvels of the Mussulman State, when they willingly sent their 
sons to study in the schools of Cordova. Yet nothing Arabian 
remains in Europe outside the nations that have a tinge of 
Ishmaelitish blood. Brahmanic India showed no more eager- 
ness than ourselves to come to terms with Islam, and has, like 
us, resisted all the efforts of its Mohammedan masters. 

To-day, it is our turn to deal with the remains of Arab civiliza- 
tion. We harry and destroy the Arabs, but we do not succeed 
in changing them, although their civilization is not itself original, 
and so should have less power of resistance. It is notorious that 
the Arabian people, itself weak in numbers, continually in- 
corporated the remnants of the races it had conquered by the 
sword. The Mussulmans form a very mixed population, with 
an equally hybrid culture, of which it is easy to disentangle the 
elements. The conquering nucleus did not, before Mohammed, 
consist of a new or unknown people. Its traditions were held 
in common with the Semite and Hamite families from which it 
was originally derived. It was brought into conflict with the 
Phoenicians and the Jews, and had the blood of both in its veins. 
It played a middleman's part in their Red Sea trade, and on the 
eastern coasts of India and Africa. It did the same, later, for 
the Persians and the Romans. Many Arab tribes took part in 
the political life of Persia under the Arsacidae and Sassanidae, 
while some of their princes, like Odenathus,* were proclaimed 
Caesar, some of their princesses, like Zenobia, daughter of Amru 
and Queen of Palmyra, won a glory that was distinctively Roman, 
and some of their adventurers, like Philip, even raised them- 
selves to the Imperial purple. Thus this hybrid nation had 
never ceased, from the most ancient times, to make itself felt 

* King of Palmyra in Syria, and husband of Zenobia. He was recog- 
nized by the Emperor Gallienus as co-regent of the East in 267, and was 
murdered in the same year. — Tr. 

M 177 


among the powerful societies among which it lived. It had 
associated itself with their work, and like a body half sunk in 
water, half exposed to the sun, contained at one and the same 
time elements of barbarism and of an advanced civilization. 

Mohammed invented the religion that was best fitted to the 
mental state of his people, where idolatry found many followers, 
but where Christianity, distorted by heretics and Judaizers, 
made just as many proselytes. In the religious system of the 
Prophet of Koresh the reconciliation between the law of Moses 
and the Christian faith was more complete than in the doctrines of 
the Church. This problem had greatly exercised the minds of 
the early Catholics, and was always present to the Oriental 
conscience. Hence Mohammed's gift had already an appetizing 
appearance, and besides, any theological novelty had a good 
chance of gaining converts among the Syrians and Egyptians. 
To crown all. the new religion came forward sword in hand ; 
this was another guarantee of success among the masses, who 
had no common bond of union, other than the strong conviction 
of their helplessness. 

It was thus that Islam came forth from the desert. Arrogant, 
uninventive, and with a civilization that was already, for the 
most part, Grseco-Asiatic, it found the ground prepared for it. 
Its recruits, on the East and South coasts of the Mediterranean, 
had already been saturated with the complex product which 
it was bringing to them, and which in turn it reabsorbed. The 
new cult, that had borrowed its doctrines from the Church, the 
Synagogue, and the garbled traditions of the Hedjaz and the 
Yemen, extended from Bagdad to Montpellier ; and with the 
cult came its Persian and Roman laws, its GraBco-Syrian * and 
Egyptian science, and its system of administration, which was 
tolerant from the first, as is natural where there is no unity in 
the State organism. We need not be astonished at the rapid 

* " The impulse towards this science given them by their kinship with 
the Graeco-Syrians made them capable of really absorbing the Greek 
language and spirit ; for the Arabs preferred to confine themselves to the 
purely scientific results of Greek speculation " (W. von Humboldt, t/ber 
die Kawi-Sprache, Introduction, p. cclxiii). 



progress in refinement made by the Mussulmans. The greater 
part of the people had merely changed their habits for the time 
being. When they began to play the part of apostles in the 
world, their identity was not at once recognized ; they had not 
been known under their old names for some time. Another 
important point must be remembered. In this varied collection 
of peoples, each no doubt contributed its share to the common 
welfare. But which of them had given the first push to the 
machine, and which directed its motion for the short time 
it lasted ? Why, the little nucleus of Arab tribes that had 
come from the interior of the peninsula, and consisted, not of 
philosophers, but of fanatics, soldiers, conquerors, and rulers. 

Arab civilization was merely the old Grseco-Syrian civiliza- 
tion, modified by Persian admixture, and revived and rejuvenated 
by the new, sharp breath of a genius. Hence, although ready 
to make concessions, it could not come to terms with any form 
of society that had a different origin from its own, any more 
than the Greek culture could with the Roman, although these 
were so near to each other and lived side by side for so many 
centuries within the same Empire. 

The preceding paragraphs are enough to show how impossible 
it is that the civilizations belonging to racially distinct groups 
should ever be fused together. The irreconcilable antagonism 
between different races and cultures is clearly established by 
history, and such innate repulsion must imply unlikeness and 
inequality. If it is admitted that the European cannot hope to 
civilize the negro, and manages to transmit to the mulatto only 
a very few of his own characteristics ; if the children of a mulatto 
and a white woman cannot really understand anything better 
than a hybrid culture, a little nearer than their father's to the 
ideas of the white race, — in that case, I am right in saying that 
the different races are unequal in intelligence. 

I will not adopt the ridiculous method that is unhappily only 
too dear to our ethnologists. I will not discuss, as they do, the 
moral and intellectual standing of individuals taken one by one. 

I need.not indeed speak of morality at all, as I have already 



admitted the power of every human family to receive the light of 
Christianity in its own way. As to the question of intellectual 
merit, I absolutely refuse to make use of the argument, " every 
negro is a fool."* My main reason for avoiding it is that I should 
have to recognize, for the sake of balance, that every European is 
intelligent ; and heaven keep me from such a paradox ! 

I will not wait for the friends of equality to show me such and 
such passages in books written by missionaries or sea-captains, 
who declare that some Yolof is a fine carpenter, some Hottentot a 
good servant, that some Kaffir dances and plays the violin, and 
some Bambara knows arithmetic. 

I am ready to admit without proof all the marvels of this kind 
that anyone can tell me, even about the most degraded savages. 
I have already denied that even the lowest tribes are absolutely 
stupid. I actually go further than my opponents, as I have no 
doubt that a fair number of negro chiefs are superior, in the 
wealth of their ideas, the synthetic power of their minds, and the 
strength of their capacity for action, to the level usually reached 
by our peasants, or even by the average specimens of our half- 
educated middle class. But, I say again, I do not take my stand 
on the narrow ground of individual capacity. It seems to me 
unworthy of science to cling to such futile arguments. If Mungo 
Park or Lander have given a certificate of intelligence to some 
negro, what is to prevent another traveller, who meets the same 
phoenix, from coming to a diametrically opposite conclusion ? 
Let us leave these puerilities, and compare together, not men, but 
groups. When, as may happen some day, we have carefully 
investigated what the different groups can and cannot do, what 
is the limit of their faculties and the utmost reach of their in- 
telligence, by what nations they have been dominated since the 
dawn of history — then and then only shall we have the right 
to consider why the higher individuals of one race are inferior to 
the geniuses of another. We may then go on to compare the 

* The severest judgment on the negro that has perhaps been passed 
up to now comes from one of the pioneers of the doctrine of equality. 
Franklin defines the negro as " an animal who eats as much, and works 
as little, as possible." 



powers of the average men belonging to these types, and to find 
out where these powers are equal and where one surpasses the 
other. But this difficult and delicate task cannot be performed 
until the relative position of the different races has been ac- 
curately, and to some extent mathematically, gauged. I do not 
even know if we shall ever get clear and undisputed results, if we 
shall ever be free to go beyond a mere general conclusion and come 
to such close grips with the minor varieties as to be able to recog- 
nize, define, and classify the lower strata and the average minds 
of each nation. If we can do this, we shall easily be able to 
show that the activity, energy, and intelligence of the least gifted 
individuals in the dominant races, are greater than the same 
qualities in the corresponding specimens produced by the other 

Mankind is thus divided into unlike and unequal parts, or 
rather into a series of categories, arranged, one above the other, 
according to differences of intellect. 

In this vast hierarchy there are two great forces always acting 
on each member of the series. These forces are continually 
setting up movements that tend to fuse the races together ; they 
are, as I have already indicated, f (i) resemblance in general 
bodily structure and (ii) the common power of expressing ideas 
and sensations by the modulation of the voice. 

I have said enough about the first of these, and have shown 
the true limits within which it operates. 

I will now discuss the second point, and inquire what is the 
relation between the power of a race and the merit of its language ; 
in other words, whether the strongest races have the best idioms, 
and if not, how the anomaly may be explained. 

* I have no hesitation in regarding the exaggerated development of 
instinct among savage races as a specific mark of intellectual inferiority. 
The sharpening of certain senses can only be gained by the deterioration 
of the mental facilities. On this point, compare what Lesson says of the 
Papuans, in a paper printed in the Annates des sciences naturelles, vol. x. 

f See p. 139. 




If a degraded people, at the lowest rung of the racial ladder, with 
as little significance for the " male " as for the " female " progress 
of mankind, could possibly have invented a language of philo- 
sophic depth, of aesthetic beauty and flexibility, rich in charac- 
teristic forms and precise idioms, fitted alike to express the 
sublimities of religion, the graces of poetry, the accuracy of 
physical and political science, — such a people would certainly 
possess an utterly useless talent, that of inventing and perfecting 
an instrument which their mental capacity would be too weak 
to turn to any account. 

We should have, in such a case, to believe that our observation 
has been suddenly brought to a stop, not by something unknown 
or unintelligible (as often happens) but by a mere absurdity. 

At first sight, this tantalizing answer seems the correct one. 
If we take the races as they are to-day, we must admit that the 
perfection of idiom is very far from corresponding, in all cases, 
to the degree of civilization reached. The tongues of modern 
Europe, to speak of no others, are unequal in merit, and the 
richest and most beautiful do not necessarily belong to the most 
advanced people. Further, they are one and all vastly inferior 
to many languages which have been at different times spoken in 
the world. 

A still more curious fact is that the languages of whole groups 
of peoples which have stopped at a low level of culture may be of 
considerable merit. Thus the net of language, with its varied 
meshes, might seem to have been cast over mankind at random, 
the silk and the gold sometimes covering rude, feiocious, and 
miserable tribes, while wise and learned peoples are still caught 



in the hemp, the wool, and the horsehair. Happily, this is so only 
in appearance. If, with the aid of history, -we apply our doctrine 
of the difference of races, we shall soon find that our proofs of 
their intellectual inequality are even strengthened. 

The early philologists were doubly in error, when they thought, 
first that all languages are formed on the same principle, secondly 
that language was invented merely under the stress of material 
needs. In the former point they were influenced by the unitarian 
doctrine that all human groups have a common origin. 

With regard to language, doubt is not even possible. The 
modes of formation are completely different ; and whether 
the classifications of philology require revision or not, we cannot 
believe for a moment that the Altaic, Aryan, and Semitic families 
were not from the first absolutely foreign to each other. Nothing 
is the same. The vocabulary has its own peculiar character 
in each of these groups. There is a different modulation of the 
voice in each. In one, the lips are used to produce the sounds ; 
in another, the contraction of the throat ; in another the nasal 
passage and the upper part of the head. The composition of the 
parts of speech, according as they confuse or distinguish the 
various shades of thought, points equally to a difference of 
origin. The most striking proof of the divergence in thought 
and feeling between one group and another are seen in the 
inflexions of the substantive and the conjugations of the 
verb. When, therefore, the philosopher tries to give an account 
of the origin of language by a process of purely abstract con- 
jecture, and begins by conceiving an " original man," without 
any specific racial or linguistic character, he starts from an 
absurdity, and continues on the same lines. There is no such 
being as " man " in the abstract ; and I am especially sure that 
he will not be discovered by the investigation of language. 
I cannot argue on the basis that mankind started from some 
one point in its creation of idiom. There were many points of de- 
parture, because there were many forms of thought and feeling.* 

* W. von Humboldt, in one of the most brilliant of his minor works, 
has admirably expressed this fact, in its essentials. " In language," he 



The second view, I think, is just as false. According to this 
theory, there would have been no development save as dictated 
by necessity. The result would be that the " male " races would 
have a richer and more accurate language than the " female " ; 
further, as material needs are concerned with objects apprehended 
by the senses, and especially with actions, the main factor of 
human speech would be vocabulary. 

There would be no necessity for the syntax and grammatical 
structure to advance beyond the simplest and most elementary 
combinations. A series of sounds more or less linked together 
is always enough to express a need ; and a gesture, as the Chinese 
know well, is an obvious form of commentary, when the phrase 
is obscure without it.* Not only would the synthetic power of 
language remain undeveloped ; it would also be the poorer for 
dispensing with harmony, quantity, and rhythm. For what 
is the use of melody when the sole object is to obtain some 
positive result ? A language, in fact, would be a mere chance 
collection of arbitrary sounds. 

Certain questions are apparently cleared up by such a theory. 
Chinese, the tongue of a masculine race, seems to have been at 
first developed with a purely utilitarian aim. The word has never 
risen above a mere sound, and has remained monosyllabic. 
There is no evolution of vocabulary, no root giving birth to a 
family of derivatives. All the words are roots ; they are not 
modified by suffixes, but by each other, according to a very crude 
method of juxtaposition. The grammar is extremely simple ; 
which makes the phraseology very monotonous. The very idea 
of aesthetic value is excluded, at any rate for ears that are ac- 
customed to the rich, varied, and abundant forms, the inex- 
haustible combinations of happier tongues. We must however 

says, " the work of time is helped everywhere [by national idiosyncrasies. 
The characteristic features in the idioms of the warrior hordes of America 
and Northern Asia were not necessarily those of the primitive races of 
India and Greece. It is not possible to trace a perfectly equal, and as 
it were natural, development of any language, whether it was spoken 
by one nation or many " (W. von Humboldt, Uber das Enlstehen der 
grammatischen Formen, und ihren Einfluss auf die Ideenentwickelung). 
* W. von Humboldt, Uber die Kawi-Sprache, Introduction. 



add that this may not be the impression produced on the Chinese 
themselves ; and their spoken language certainly aims at some 
kind of beauty, since there are definite rules governing the 
melodic sequence of sounds. If it does not succeed in being so 
euphonious as other languages, we must still recognize that it 
aims at euphony no less than they. Further, the primary 
elements of Chinese are something more than a mere heaping 
together of useful sounds.* 

I admit that the masculine races may be markedly inferior in 
aesthetic power to the others,! and their inferiority may be repro- J 
duced in their idioms. This is shown, not merely by the relative ( 

* I am inclined to believe that the monosyllabic quality of Chinese is 
not really a specific mark of the language at all ; and though a striking 
characteristic, it does not seem to be an essential one. If it were, Chinese 
would be an " isolating ' ' language, connected with others having the 
same structure. We know that this is not so. Chinese belongs to the 
Tatar or Finnish system, of which some branches are polysyllabic. On 
the other hand, we find monosyllabic languages among groups with quite 
a different origin. I do not lay any stress on the example of Othomi. a 
Mexican dialect which, according to du Ponceau, has the monosyllabic 
quality of Chinese, and yet in other respects belongs to the American 
family among which it is found, as Chinese does to the Tatar group (see 
Morton, "An Inquiry into the Distinctive Characteristics of the aboriginal 
race of America," Philadelphia, 1844). My reason for neglecting this 
apparently important example is that these American languages may 
one day be recognized as forming merely a vast branch of the Tatar 
family ; and thus any conclusion I might draw from them would simply 
go to confirm what I have said as to the relation of Chinese to the sur- 
rounding dialects, a relation which is in no way disproved by the peculiar 
character of Chinese itself. 

I find therefore a more conclusive instance in Coptic, which will not 
easily be shown to have any relation to Chinese. But here also every 
syllable is a root ; and the simple affixes that modify the root are so 
independent that even the determining particle that marks the time 
of the verb does not always remain joined to the word. Thus hon means 
" to command " ; a-hon, " he commanded " ; but a Moyses hon, " Moses 
commanded " (see E. Meier, Hebrdisches Wurzelworterbuch). 

Thus it seems possible for monosyllabism to appear in every linguistic 
family. It is a kind of infirmity produced by causes which are not yet 
understood ; it is not however a specific feature, separating the language 
in which it occurs from the rest, and setting it in a class by itself. 

•f Goethe says in Wilhelm Meisler : " Few Germans, and perhaps few 
men of modern nations, have the sense of an aesthetic whole. We only 
know how to praise and blame details, we can only show a fragmentary 



poverty of Chinese, but also by the careful way in which certain 
Western races have robbed Latin of its finest rhythmic qualities, 
and Gothic of its sonority, The inferiority of our modern 
languages, even the best of them, to Sanscrit, Greek, and Latin, 
is self-evident, and corresponds exactly to the mediocrity of the 
Chinese civilization and our own, so far as art and literature are 
|| concerned. I admit that this difference, alone with others, may 
' serve to mark off the languages of the masculine races. They still, 
however, have a feeling for rhythm (less than that of the ancient 
tongues, but still powerful), and make a real attempt to create 
and obey laws of correspondence between sounds and the forms 
by which thought is modified in speech. I conclude that even 
in the languages of masculine races there still flickers the in- 
tellectual spark, the feeling for beauty and logic ; this feeling, 
as well as that of material need, must preside at the birth of every 

I said above that if material need had reigned alone, a set of 
any chance sounds would have been enough for human neces- 
sities, in the first ages of man's existence. Such a theory cannot 
be maintained. 

Sounds are not assigned to ideas by pure chance. The choice 
is governed by the instinctive recognition of a certain logical 
relation between noises heard outwardly by man's ear and ideas 
that his throat or tongue wishes to express. In the eighteenth 
century men were greatly struck by this truth. Unfortunately, 
it was caught in the net of etymological exaggeration so charac- 
teristic of the time ; and its results were so absurd that they 
justly fell into disrepute. For a long time the best minds were 
warned off the land that had been so stupidly exploited by the 
early pioneers. They are now beginning to return to it again, 
and if they have learnt prudence and restraint in the bitter school 
of experience, they may arrive at valuable conclusions. With- 
out pushing a theory, true in itself, into the realm of chimeras, 
we may allow that primitive speech knew how to use as far as 
possible the different impressions received by the ear, in order to 
form certain classes of words ; in creating others it was guided 

1 86 


by the feeling of a mysterious relation between certain abstract 
ideas and some particular noises. Thus, for example, the sound 
of e seems to suggest death and dissolution, that of v or w, vague- 
ness in the moral or physical realm, vows, wind, and the like ; 
s suggests starkness and standing fast, m maternity, and so on.* 
Such a theory is sufficiently well founded for us to take it seriously, 
if kept within due limits. But it must be used with great circum- 
spection, if we are not to find ourselves in the dark paths where 
even common sense is soon led astray. 

The last paragraph may show, however imperfectly, that 
material need is not the only element that produces a language, 
but that the best of man's powers have helped in the task. 
Sounds were not applied arbitrarily to ideas and objects, and in 
this respect men followed a pre-established order, one side of 
which was manifested in themselves. Thus the primitive tongues, 
however crude and poor they may have been, contained all the 
elements from which their branches might at a later time be 
developed in a logical and necessary sequence. 

W. von Humboldt has observed, with his usual acuteness, 
that every language is independent of the will of those who speak 
it. It is closely bound up with their intellectual condition, and 
is beyond the reach of arbitrary caprice. It cannot be altered 
at will, as is curiously shown by the efforts that have been made 
to do so. 

The Bushmen have invented a system of changing their 
language, in order to prevent its being understood by the un- 
initiated. We find the same custom among certain tribes of the 
Caucasus. But all their efforts come to no more than the mere 
insertion of a subsidiary syllable at the beginning, middle, or end 
of words. Take away this parasitic element, and the language 
remains the same, changed neither in forms nor syntax. 

De Sacy has discovered a more ambitious attempt, in the 

* Cf. W. von Humboldt, Uber die Kawi-Sprache, Introduction, p. xcv : 
" We may call the sound that imitates the meaning of a word symbolic, 
although the symbolic element in speech goes far deeper than this. . . . 
This kind of imitation undoubtedly had a great, and perhaps exclusive, 
influence over the early attempts at word-building." 



language called " Balaibalan." This curious idiom was invented 
by the Sufis, to be used in their mystical books, with the object 
of wrapping the speculations of their theologians in still greater 
mystery. They made up, on no special plan, the words that 
seemed to them to sound most strangely to their ears. If how- 
ever this so-called language did not belong to any family and 
if the meaning given to its sounds was entirely arbitrary, yet 
the principles of euphony, the grammar and the syntax, every- 
thing in fact which gives a language its special character, bore the 
unmistakable stamp of Arabic and Persian. The Sufis produced 
a jargon at once Aryan and Semitic, and of no importance what- 
ever. The pious colleagues of Djelat-Eddin-Rumi were not able 
to invent a language ; and clearly this power has not been given 
to any single man.* 

Hence the language of a race is closely bound up with its 
intelligence, and has the power of reflecting its various mental 
stages, as they are reached. This power may be at first only 

Where the mental development of a race is faulty or imperfect, 
the language suffers to the same extent. This is shown by 
Sanscrit, Greek, and the Semitic group, as well as by Chinese, 

* There is probably another jargon of the same kind as Balaibalan. 
This is called " Afnskoe," and is spoken by the pedlars and horse-dealers 
of Greater Russia, especially in the province of Vladimir. It is confined 
to men. The grammar is entirely Russian, though the roots are foreign. 
(See Pott, Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopddie, Indogermanischer Sprach- 
stamm, p. no.) 

f C. O. Muller, in an admirable passage which I cannot resist the temp- 
tation of transcribing, shows the true nature of language : " Our age has 
learnt, by the study of the Hindu and especially the Germanic languages, 
that the laws of speech are as fixed as those of organic life. Between 
different dialects, developing independently after their separation, there 
are still mysterious links, which reciprocally determine the sounds and 
their sequences. Literature and science set limits to this growth, and 
arrest perhaps some of its richer developments ; but they cannot impose 
any law on it higher than that ordained by nature, mother of all things. 
Even a long time before the coming of decadence and bad taste, languages 
may fall sick, from outward or inward causes, and suffer vast changes ; 
but so long as life remains in them, their innate power is enough to heal 
their wounds, to set their torn limbs, and to restore unity and regularity, 
even when the beauty and perfection of the noble plants has almost entirely 
disappeared " (Die Etrusker, p. 65). 



in which I have already pointed out a utilitarian tendency 
corresponding to the intellectual bent of the people. The super- 
abundance of philosophical and ethnological terms in Sanscrit 
corresponds to the genius of those who spoke it, as well as its 
richness and rhythmic beauty. The same is the case with Greek ; 
while the lack of precision in the Semitic tongues is exactly 
paralleled by the character of the Semitic peoples. 

If we leave the cloudy heights of the remoter ages, and come 
down to the more familiar regions of modern history, we shah 
be, as it were, presiding at the birth of many new tongues ; and 
this will make us see with even greater clearness how faithfully 
language mirrors the genius of a race. 

As soon as two nations are fused together, a revolution takes 
place in their respective languages ; this is sometimes slow, some- 
times sudden, but always inevitable. The languages are changed 
and, after a certain time, die out as separate entities. The new 
tongue is a compromise between them, the dominant element 
being furnished by the speech of the race that has contributed 
most members to the new people.* Thus, from the thirteenth 
century, the Germanic dialects of France have had to yield 
ground, not to Latin, but to the lingua romana, with the revival 
of the Gallo-Roman power.f Celtic, too, had to retreat before 
the Italian colonists. It did not yield to Italian civilization ; 
in fact, one might say, that, thanks to the number of those who 
spoke it, Celtic finally gained a kind of victory. For after the 
complete fusion of the Gauls, the Romans, and the northern 
tribes, it was Celtic that laid the foundations of modern French 
syntax, abolished the strong accentuation of Germanic as well as 
the sonority of Latin, and introduced its own equable rhythm. 
The gradual development of French is merely the effect of this 

* Pott, op. cit., p. 74. 

I That the mixture of idioms is proportionate to that of the races 
constituting a nation had already been noticed before philology, in the 
modern sense, existed at all. Kampf er for example says in his ' ' History 
of Japan " (published in 1729) : " We may take it as a fixed rule that the 
settlement of foreigners in a country will bring a corresponding proportion 
of foreign words into the language ; these will be naturalized by degrees, 
and become as familiar as the native words themselves." 



patient labour, that went on, without ceasing, under the surface. 
Again, the reason why modern German has lost the striking forms 
to be seen in the Gothic of Bishop Ulfilas lies in the presence of 
a strong Cymric element in the midst of the small Germanic 
population that was still left to the east of the Rhine,* after the 
great migrations of the sixth and following centuries of our era. 

The linguistic results of the fusion of two peoples are as indi- 
vidual as the new racial character itself. One may say generally 
that no language remains pure after it has come into close contact 
with a different language. Even when their structures are 
totally unlike each other, the vocabulary at any rate suffers 
some changes. If the parasitic language has any strength at all, 
it will certainly attack the other in its rhythmic quality, and 
even in the unstable parts of its syntax. Thus language is one of 
the most fragile and delicate forms of property ; and we may 
often see a noble and refined speech being affected by barbarous 
idioms and passing itself into a kind of relative barbarism. By 
degrees it will lose its beauty ; its vocabulary will be impover- 
ished, and many of its forms obsolete, while it will show an 
irresistible tendency to become assimilated to its inferior neigh- 
bour. This has happened in the case of Wallachian and Rha^tian, 
Kawi and Birman. The two latter have been leavened 
with Sanscrit elements ; but in spite of this noble alliance, 
they have been declared by competent judges to be inferior to 
Delaware, f 

The group of tribes speaking this dialect are of the Lenni- 
Lenapes family, and they originally ranked higher than the two 
yellow peoples who were caught in the sweep of Hindu civiliza- 
tion. If, in spite of their primitive superiority, they are now 

* Keferstein shows that German is merely a hybrid language made up 
of Celtic and Gothic {Ansichten iiber die keltischen Altertumer , Halle, 1846- 
51 ; Introduction, p. xxxviii). Grimm is of the same opinion. 

t W. von Humboldt says : "Languages, that are apparently crude and 
unrefined, may show some striking qualities in their structure, and often 
do so. In this respect they may quite possibly surpass more highly 
developed tongues. The comparison of Birman with Delaware, not to 
speak of Mexican, can leave no doubt of the superiority of the latter ; 
yet a strand of Indian culture has certainly been interwoven into Birman 
by Pali" (fiber die Kawi-Sprache, Introduction, p. xxxiv). 



inferior to the Asiatics, it is because these live under the influence 
of the social institutions of a noble race and have profited by 
them, though in themselves they are of slight account. Contact 
with the Hindus has been enough to raise them some way in 
the scale, while the Lenapes, who have never been touched by 
any such influence, have not been able to rise above their present 
civilization. In a similar way (to take an obvious example) 
the young mulattoes who have been educ ated in London or 
Paris may show a certain veneer of culture superior to that of 
some Southern Italian peoples, who are in point of merit in- 
finitely higher ; for once a mulatto, always a mulatto, When 
therefore we come upon a savage tribe with a language better 
than that of a more civilized nation, we must examine carefully 
whether the civilization of the latter really belongs to it, or is 
merely the result of a slight admixture of foreign blood. If so, 
a low type of native language helped out by a hybrid mixture of 
foreign idioms may well exist side by side with a certain degree 
of social culture.* 

I have already said that, as each civilization has a special 
character, we must not be surprised if the poetic and philosophic 
sense was more developed among the Hindus and the Greeks 
than among ourselves ; whereas our modern societies are marked 
rather by their practical, scientific, and critical spirit. Taken 
as a whole, we have more energy and a greater genius for action 
than the conquerors of Southern Asia and Hellas. On the other 
hand, we must yield them the first place in the kingdom of beauty, 
and here our languages naturally mirror our humble position. 
The style of the Indian and Ionian writers takes a more powerful 
flight towards the sphere of the ideal. Language, in fact, while 
being an excellent index of the general elevation of races, is 
in a special degree the measure of their aesthetic capacities. 

* This difference of level between the intellect of the conqueror and that 
of the conquered is the cause of the " sacred languages " that we find used 
in the early days of an empire ; such as that of the Egyptians, or the Incas 
of Peru. These languages are the object of a superstitious veneration ; 
they are the exclusive property of the upper classes, and often of a sacer- 
dotal caste, and they furnish the strongest possible proof of the existence 
of a foreign race that has conquered the country where they are found. 



This is the character it assumes when we use it as a means of 
comparing different civilizations. 

To bring out this point further, I will venture to question a 
view put forward by William von Humboldt, that in spite of the 
obvious superiority of the Mexican to the Peruvian language, 
the civilization of the Incas was yet far above that of the people 
of Anahuac* 

The Peruvian customs were certainly more gentle than the 
Mexican ; and their religious ideas were as inoffensive as those 
of Montezuma's subjects were ferocious. In spite of this, their 
social condition was marked by far less energy and variety. 
Their crude despotism never developed into more than a dull 
kind of communism ; whereas the Aztec civilization had made 
various political experiments of great complexity. Its military 
system was far more vigorous ; and though the use of writing 
was equally unknown in both empires, it seems that poetry, 
history, and ethics, which were extensively studied at the time 
of Cortes, would have advanced further in Mexico than in Peru, 
the institutions of which were coloured by an Epicurean in- 
differentism that was highly unfavourable to intellectual progress. 
Clearly we must regard the more active people as superior. 

Von Humboldt's view is simply a consequence of the way in 
which he defines civilization.! Without going over the same 
ground again, I was yet bound to clear up this point ; for if two 
civilizations had really been able to develop in inverse ratio to 
the merits of their respective languages, I should have had to 
give up the idea of any necessary connexion between the intelli- 
gence of a people and the value of the language spoken by it. But 
I cannot do this, in view of what I have already said about 
Greek and Sanscrit, as compared with English, French, and 

It would be, however, a very difficult task to assign a reason, 
along these lines, for the exact course taken by the language of 
a hybrid people. We have seldom sufficient knowledge either 

* W. von Humboldt, jjber die Kawi-Sprache, Introduction, p. xxxiv 
■J- See p. 82 above. 



of the quantity or quality of the intermixture of blood to be 
able properly to trace its effects. Yet these racial influences 
persist, and if they are not unravelled, we may easily come to 
false conclusions. It is just because the connexion between 
race and language is so close, that it lasts much longer than the 
political unity of the different peoples, and may be recognized 
even when the peoples are grouped under new names. The 
language changes with their blood, but does not die out until 
the last fragment of the national life has disappeared. This is 
the case with modern Greek. Sadly mutilated, robbed of its 
wealth of grammar, impoverished in the number of its sounds, 
with the pure stream of its vocabulary troubled and muddy, it 
has none the less retained the impress of its original form.* In 
the intellectual world it corresponds to the sullied and deflowered 
'Parthenon, which first became a church for the Greek popes, 
and then a powder-magazine ; which had its pediments 
and columns shattered in a thousand places by the Venetian 
bullets of Morosini ; but which still stands, for the wonder and 
adoration of the ages, as a model of pure grace and unadorned 

Not every race has the power of being faithful to the tongue 
of its ancestors. This makes our task still more difficult, when 
we try to determine the origin or relative value of different 
human types by the help of philology. Not only do languages 
change without any obvious reason, at any rate from the racial 
point of view ; but there are also certain nations which give up 
their own language altogether, when they are brought for some 
time into contact with a foreign race. This happened, after the 
conquests of Alexander, in the case of the more enlightened 
nations of Western Asia, such as the Carians, Cappadocians, and 
Armenians. The Gauls are another instance, as I have already 
said. Yet all these peoples brought a foreign element into the 

* Ancient Greece contained many dialects, but not so many as the 
Greece of the sixteenth century, when seventy were counted by Simeon 
Kavasila ; further we may notice (in connexion with the following 
paragraph) that in the thirteenth century French was spoken throughout 
Greece, and especially in Attica (Heilmayer, quoted by Pott, op. cit., p. 73). 

N 193 


conquering tongue, which was transformed in its turn. Thus 
they could all be regarded as using their own intellectual tools, 
though to a very imperfect extent ; while others, more tenacious 
of theirs, such as the Basques, the Berbers of Mount Atlas, and 
the Ekkhilis of Southern Arabia, speak even at the present day 
the same tongue as was spoken by their most primitive ancestors. 
But there are certain peoples, the Jews for example, who 
seem never to have held to their ancestral speech at all ; and 
we can discover this indifference from the time of their earliest 
migrations. When Terah left the land of his fathers, Ur of the 
Chaldees, he certainly had not learnt the Canaanitish tongue 
that henceforth became the national speech of the children of 
Israel. It was probably influenced to some extent by their 
earlier recollections, and in their mouth became a special dialect 
of the very ancient language which was the mother of the earliest 
Arabic we know, and the lawful inheritance of tribes closely 
allied to the black Hamites.* Yet not even to this language 
were the Jews to remain faithful. The tribes who were brought 
back from captivity by Zerubbabel had forgotten it during 
their short stay of sixty-two years by the rivers of Babylon. 
Their patriotism was proof against exile, and still burned with 
its original fire ; but the rest had been given up, with remark- 
able facility, by a people which is at the same time jealous of its 
own traditions and extremely cosmopolitan. Jerusalem was 
rebuilt, and its inhabitants reappeared, speaking an Aramaic or 
Chaldaean jargon, which may have had some slight resemblance 
to the speech of the fathers of Abraham. 

At the time of Christ, this dialect offered only a feeble resist- 
ance to the invasion of Hellenistic Greek, which assailed the 
Jewish mind on all sides. Henceforth all the works produced 
by Jewish writers appeared in the new dress, which fitted them 
more or less elegantly, and copied to some extent the old Attic 
fashions. The last canonical books of the Old Testament, as 

* The Hebrews themselves did not call their language " Hebrew " ; 
they called it, quite properly, the " language of Canaan " (Isaiah xix, 18). 
Compare Roediger's preface to the Hebrew grammar of Gesenius (16th 
edition, Leipzig, 1851, p. 7 et passim). 



well as the works of Philo and Josephus, are Hellenistic in 

When the Holy City was destroyed" and the Jewish nation 
scattered, the favour of God departed from them, and the East 
came again into its own. Hebrew culture broke with Athens as 
it had broken with Alexandria, and the language and ideas of 
the Talmud, the teaching of the school of Tiberias, were again 
Semitic, sometimes in the form of Arabic, sometimes in that of 
the " language of Canaan," to use Isaiah's phrase. I am speak- 
ing of what was henceforth to be the sacred language of religion 
and the Rabbis, and was regarded as the true national speech. 
In their everyday life, however, the Jews used the tongue of 
the country where they settled ; and, further, these exiles 
were known everywhere by their special accent. They never 
succeeded in fitting their vocal organs to their adopted language, 
even when they had learnt it from childhood. This goes to 
confirm what William von Humboldt says as to the connexion 
between race and language being so close that later generations 
never get quite accustomed to pronounce correctly words that 
were unknown to their ancestors.* 

Whether this be true or not, we have in the Jews a remarkable 
proof of the fact that one must not always assume, at first sight, 
a close connexion between a race and its language, for the 
language may not have belonged to it originally.t 
I We see how cautiously we must tread if we attempt to infer 
1 an identity of race from the affinity, or even the resemblance, of 
languages. Not only have most of the nations of Western Asia 
and nearly all those of Southern Europe merely adapted the 
speech of others to their own use, while leaving its main elements 

* This is also the view of W. Edwards (" Physical Characteristics of the 
Human Races "). 

t Besides the Jews, I might also mention the Gipsies. There is, 
further, the case where a people speaks two languages. In Grisons 
almost all the peasants of the Engadine speak Roumansch and German 
with equal facility, the former among themselves, the latter to foreigners. 
In Courland there is a district where the peoples speak Esthonian (a 
Finnish dialect) to each other and Lithuanian to every one else (Pott, 
op. cit., p. 104). 



untouched ; but there are also some who have taken over 
languages absolutely foreign to them, to which they have made 
no contribution whatever. The latter case is certainly rarer, 
and may even be regarded as an anomaly. But its mere existence 
is enough to make us very careful in admitting a form of proof 
in which such exceptions are possible. On the other hand, since 
they are exceptions, and are not met with so often as the opposite 
case, of a national tongue being preserved for centuries by even 
a weak nation ; since we also see how a language is assimilated 
to the particular character of the people that has created it, 
and how its changes are in exact proportion to the successive 
modifications in the people's blood ; since the part played by a 
language in forming its derivatives varies with the numerical 
strength, in the new groups, of the race that speaks it, we may 
justly conclude that no nation can have a language of greater 
value than itself, except under special circumstances. As this 
point is of considerable importance, I will try to bring it out by 
a new line of proof. 

We have already seen that the civilization of a composite 
people does not include all its social classes.* The racial in- 
fluences that were at work in the lower strata from the first still 
go on ; and they prevent the directing forces of the national 
culture from reaching the depths at all, — if they do, their action 
is weak and transitory. In France, about five-eighths of the total 
population play merely an unwilling and passive part in the 
development of modern European culture, and that only by 
fits and starts. With the exception of Great Britain, of which the 
insular position produces a greater unity of type, the proportion 
is even higher in the rest of the Continent. I will speak of France 
at greater length, as an instance of the exact correspondence 
between language and racial type ; for in France we have a 
particular instance that strikingly confirms our main thesis. 

We know little, or rather we have no real evidence at all, of 
the phases which Celtic and rustic Latin f passed through before 

See pp. 97-102. 
f The way was not so long from rustic Latin, lingua rustica Romanorum, 
to the lingua romana and thence to corruption, as it was from the classical 



they met and coalesced. Nevertheless, St. Jerome and his 
contemporary Sulpicius Severus tell us (the former in his " Com- 
mentaries " on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, the second 
in his " Dialogue on the virtues of the Eastern Monks ") that 
in their time at least two languages were generally spoken in 
Gaul. There was, first, Celtic, which was preserved on the banks 
of the Rhine in so pure a form, that it remained identical with 
the language spoken by the Galatians of Asia Minor, who had 
been separated from their mother country for more than six 
centuries.* Secondly, there was the language called " Gallic," 
which according to a commentator, can only have been a form, 
already broken down, of Popular Latin. This fourth century 
dialect, while different from the Gallic of Treves, was spoken 
neither in the West nor in Aquitaine. It was found only in the 
centre and south of what is now France, and was itself probably 
split up into two great divisions. It is the common source of the 
currents, more or less Latinized, which were mingled with other 
elements in different proportions, and formed later the langue d'oil 
and the lingua romana, in the narrower sense. I will speak first 
of the latter. 

In order to bring it into being, all that was necessary was a 
slight alteration in the vocabulary of Latin, and the introduction 
of a few syntactical notions borrowed from Celtic and other 
languages till then unknown in the West of Europe. The 
Imperial colonies had brought in a fair number of Italian, African, 
and Asiatic elements. The Burgundian, and especially the 
Gothic, invasions added another, which was marked by consider- 
able harmony, liveliness, and sonority. Its vocabulary was 
further increased after the inroads of the Saracens. Thus the 
lingua romana became, in its rhythmic quality, quite distinct from 
Gallic, and soon assumed a character of its own. It is true that 

tongue, the precise and elaborate forms of which offered more resistance 
to decay. We may add that, as every foreign legionary brought his 
own provincial patois into the Gallic colonies, the advent of a common 
dialect was hastened, not merely by the Celts, but by the immigrants 

* Sulp. Severus, Dial. I de virtutibus monachorum orientalium. 



we do not find this in its perfection, in the " Oath of the Sons of 
Ludwig the Pious," as we do later in the poems of Raimbaut de 
Vaqueiras or Bertran de Born.* Yet even in the " Oath " we can 
recognize the language for what it is ; it has already acquired its 
main features, and its future path is clearly mapped out. It 
formed henceforth (in its different dialects of Limousin, Provencal, 
and Auvergnat) the speech of a people of as mixed an origin as 
any in the world. It was a refined and supple language, witty, 
brilliant, and satirical, but without depth or philosophy. It was 
of tinsel rather than gold, and had never been able to do more 
than pick up a few ingots on the surface of the rich mines that 
lay open to it. Without any serious principles, it was destined 
to remain an instrument of indifference, of universal scepticism 
and mockery. It did not fail to be used as such. The people 
cared for nothing but pleasure and parade. Brave to a fault, 
beyond measure gay, spending their passion on a dream, and 
their vitality on idle toys, they had an instrument that was 
exactly suited to their character, and which, though admired 
by Dante, was put to no better use in poetry than to tag satires, 
love-songs, and challenges, and in religion to support heresies 
such as that of the Albigenses, a pestilent Manicheism, without 
value even for literature, from which an English author, in no way 
Catholic in his sympathies, congratulates the Papacy on having 
delivered the Middle Ages.f Such was the lingua romana of old, 
and such do we find it even to-day. It is pretty rather than 
beautiful, and shows on the surface how little it is fitted to serve 
a great civilization. 

Was the langue d'oil formed in a similar way ? Obviously not. 
However the Celtic, Latin, and Germanic elements were fused 
(for we cannot be certain on this point, in the absence of records 

* Both troubadours who flourished in the latter half of the twelfth 
century. — Tr. 

f Macaulay, " History of England," ad init. The Albigenses are the 
special favourites of revolutionary writers, especially in Germany {see 
Lenau's poem, Die Albigenser). Nevertheless the sectaries of Languedoc 
were recruited mainly from the knightly orders and the dignitaries of the 
Church. Their doctrines were indeed antisocial ; and for this reason 
much may be pardoned to them. 



going back to the earliest period of the language *), it is at any rate 
clear that it rose from a strongly marked antagonism between the 
three tongues, and that it would thus have a character and energy 
quite incompatible with such compromises and adaptations as 
those which gave birth to the lingua romana. In one moment 
of its life, the langue d'oil was partly a Germanic tongue. In 
the written remains that have survived, we find one of the best 
qualities of the Aryan languages, the power of forming com- 
pounds. This power, it is true, is limited ; and though still 
considerable, is less than in Sanscrit, Greek, and German. In 
the nouns, we find a system of inflexion by suffix, and, in con- 
sequence, an ease in inverting the order which modern French 
has lost, and which the language of the sixteenth century retained 
only to a slight extent, its inversions being gained at the expense 
of clearness. Again, the vocabulary of the langue d'oil included 
many words brought in by the Franks. t Thus it began by being 
almost as much Germanic as Gallic ; Celtic elements appeared 
in its second stage, and perhaps fixed the melodic principles of the 
language. The best possible tribute to its merits is to be found 
in the successful experiment of Littre,J who translated the first 
book of the " Iliad " literally, line for line, into French of the 
thirteenth century. Such a tour de force would be impossible in 
modern French. 

Such a language belonged to a people that was evidently very 
different from the inhabitants of Southern Gaul. It was more 
deeply attached to Catholicism ; its politics were permeated 
by a lively idea of freedom, dignity, and independence, its 
institutions had no aim but utility. Thus the mission set before 
the popular literature was not to express the fancies of the mind 
or heart, the freakishness of a universal scepticism, but to put 
together the annals of the nation, and to set down what was at 
that time regarded as the truth. It is to this temper of the people 

* See the curious remarks of Genin in his preface to the Chanson de 
Roland (edited 1 8 5 1 ). 

f See Hickes, Thesaurus litter aturcs septentrionalis ; also L'Histoire 
HttSraire de France, vol. xvii, p. 633. 

X Published in the Revue des Deux Mondes. 



and their language that we owe the great rhymed chronicles, 
especially " Garin le Loherain," which bear witness, though it 
has since been denied, to the predominance of the North. Un- 
fortunately, since the compilers of these traditions, and even their 
original authors, mainly aimed at preserving historical facts or 
satisfying their desire for positive and solid results, poetry in the 
true sense, the love of form and the search for beauty, does not 
always bulk as large as it should in their long narratives. The 
literature of the langue d'oil was, above all, utilitarian ; and so the 
race, the language, and the literature were in perfect harmony. 

The Germanic element in the race, however, being far less than 
the Gallic basis or the Roman accretions, naturally began to 
lose ground. The same thing took place in the language ; 
Celtic and Latin advanced, Germanic retreated. That noble 
speech, which we know only at its highest stage, and which might 
have risen even higher, began to decline and become corrupted 
towards the end of the thirteenth century. In the fifteenth, 
it was no more than a patois, from which the Germanic elements 
had completely disappeared. The treasury was exhausted ; and 
what remained was an illogical and barbarous anomaly in the 
midst of the progress of Celtic and Latin. Thus in the sixteenth 
century the revival of classical studies found the language in 
ruins, and tried to remodel it on the lines of Greek and Latin. 
This v/as the professed aim of the writers of this great age. They 
did not succeed, and the seventeenth century, wisely seeing that 
the irresistible march of events could in no wise be curbed by the 
hand of man, set itself merely to improve the language from 
within ; for every day it was assuming more and more the forms 
best suited to the dominant race, trie forms, in other words, into 
which the grammatical life of Celtic had formerly been cast. 

Although both the langue d'oil and French proper are marked 
by a greater unity than the lingua romana (since the mixture of 
races and languages that gave birth to them was less complex) 
yet they have produced separate dialects which survive to this 
day. It is not doing these too much honour to call them dialects, 
not patois. They arose, not from the corruption of the^dominant 



type, with which they were at least contemporary, but from the 
different proportions in which the Celtic, Latin, and Germanic 
elements, that still make up the French nationality, were mingled. 
To the north of the Seine, we find the dialect of Picardy ; this is, 
in vocabulary and rhythmic quality, very near Flemish, of which 
the Germanic character is too obvious to be dwelt upon. Flemish, 
in this respect, shows the same power of choice as the langue d'oil, 
which could in a certain poem, without ceasing to be itself, admit 
forms and expressions taken bodily from the language spoken at 

As we go south of the Seine towards the Loire, the Celtic 
elements in the provincial dialects grow more numerous. In 
Burgundian, and the dialects of Vaud and Savoy, even the 
vocabulary has many traces of Celtic ; these are not found in 
French, where the predominant factor is rustic Latin. f 

I have shown above $ how from the sixteenth century the 
influence of the north had given ground before the growing pre- 
ponderance of the peoples beyond the Loire. The reader has 
merely to compare the present sections on language with my 
former remarks on blood to see how close is the relation between 
the speech of a people and its physical constitution^ 

I have dealt in detail with the special case of France, but the 
principle could easily be illustrated from the rest of Europe ; and 
it would be seen, as a universal rule, that the successive changes 
and modifications of a language are not, as one usually hears, the 
work of centuries. If they were, Ekkhili, Berber, Euskara, and 
Bas-Breton would long have disappeared ; and yet they still 
survive. The changes in language are caused by corresponding 

* P. Paris, Garin le Loherain, preface. 

f It may however be observed that the accent of Vaud and Savoy has 
a southern ring, strongly reminiscent of the colony of Aventicum. 

X Seep. 43. 

§ Pott brings out very well the fact that the different dialects maintain 
the balance between the blood of a race and its language, when he says, 
" Dialects are the diversity in unity, the prismatic sections of the mono- 
chromatic light and the primordial One " (Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopadie, 
p. 66). The phraseology is obscure ; but it shows his meaning clearly 



changes in the blood of successive generations, and the parallelism 
is exact. 

I must here explain a phenomenon to which I have already 
referred, namely the renunciation by certain racial groups (under 
pressure of special necessity, or their own nature) of their native 
tongue in favour of one which is more or less foreign to them. 
I took the Jews and the Parsees as examples. There are others 
more remarkable still ; for we find, in America, savage tribes 
speaking languages superior to themselves. 

In America, by a curious stroke of fate, the most energetic 
nations have developed, so to speak, in secret. The art of writing 
was unknown to them, and their history proper begins very late 
and is nearly always very obscure. The New World contains a 
great number of peoples which, though they are neighbours and 
derive in different directions from a common origin, have very 
little resemblance to each other. 

According to d'Orbigny, the so-called " Chiquitean group " in 
Central America is composed of tribes, of which the largest contain 
about 1500 souls, and the least numerous 50 and 300. All these, 
even the smallest, have distinct languages. Such a state of things 
can only be the result of a complete racial anarchy. 

On this hypothesis, I am not at all surprised to see many of 
these tribes, like the Chiquitos, in possession of a complicated and 
apparently scientific language. The words used by the men are 
sometimes different from those of the women ; and in every case 
when a man borrows one of the women's phrases, he changes the 
terminations. Where such luxury in vocabulary is possible, the 
language has surely reached a very refined stage. Unfortunately, 
side by side with this we find that the table of numerals does not 
go much further than ten. Such poverty, in the midst of so 
much careful elaboration, is probably due to the ravaging hand 
of time, aided by the barbarous condition of the natives to-day. 
When we see anomalies like these, we cannot help recalling the 
sumptuous palaces, once marvels of the Renaissance, which have 
come, by some revolution, into the hands of rude peasants. The 
eye may rove with admiration over delicate columns, elegant 



trellis-work, sculptured porches, noble staircases, and striking 
gables — luxuries which are useless to the wretchedness that lives 
under them ; for the ruined roofs let in the rain, the floors crack, 
and the worm eats into the mouldering walls. 

I can now say with certainty that, with regard to the special 
character of races, philology confirms all the facts of physiology 
and history. Its conclusions however must be handled with 
extreme care, and when they are all we have to go upon, it is very 
dangerous to rest content with them. Without the slightest 
doubt, a people's language corresponds to its mentality, but not 
always to its real value for civilization. In order to ascertain this, 
we must fix our eyes solely on the race by which, and for which, 
the language was at first designed. Now with the exception of 
the negroes, and a few yellow groups, we meet only quaternary 
races in recorded history. All the languages we know are thus 
derivative, and we cannot gain the least idea of the laws govern- 
ing their formation except in the comparatively later stages. 
Our results, even when confirmed by history, cannot be regarded 
as infallibly proved. The further we go back, the dimmer be- 
comes the light, and the more hypothetical the nature of any 
arguments drawn from philology. It is exasperating to be 
thrown back on these when we try to trace the progress of any 
human family or to discover the racial elements that make it up. 
We know that Sanscrit and Zend are akin. That is something ; 
but their common roots are sealed to us. The other ancient 
tongues are in the same case. We know nothing of Euskara 
except itself. As no analogue to it has been discovered up to now, 
we are ignorant of its history, and whether it is to be regarded as 
itself primitive or derived. It yields us no positive knowledge 
as to whether the people who speak it are racially simple or 

Ethnology may well be grateful for the help given by philology. 
But the help must not be accepted unconditionally, or any 
theories based on it alone.* 

* This caution applies only when the history of a single people is in 
question, not that of a group of peoples. Although one nation may 



This rule is dictated by a necessary prudence. All the facts, 
however, mentioned in this chapter"go to prove that, originally, 
there is a perfect correspondence between the intellectual virtues 
of a race and those of its native speech ; that languages are, in 
consequence, unequal in value and significance, unlike in their 
forms and basic elements, as races are also ; that their modifica- 
tions, like those of races, come merely from intermixture with 
other idioms ; that their qualities and merits, like a people's 
blood, disappear or become absorbed, when they are swamped by 
too many heterogeneous elements ; finally, that when a language 
of a higher order is used by some human group which is unworthy 
of it, it will certainly become mutilated and die out. Hence, 
though it is often difficult to infer at once, in a particular case, 
the merits of a people from those of its language, it is quite 
certain that in theory this can always be done. 

I may thus lay it down, as a universal axiom, that the hierarchy 

of languages is in strict correspondence with the hierarchy of 


sometimes change its language, this never happens, and could not happen, 
in the case of a complex of nationalities, racially identical though politically- 
independent. The Jews have given up their national speech ; but the 
Semitic nations as a whole can neither lose their native dialects nor acquire 




I have shown the unique place in the organic world occupied by 
the human species, the profound physical, as well as moral, 
differences separating it from all other kinds of living creatures. 
Considering it by itself, I have been able to distinguish, on physio- 
logical grounds alone, three great and clearly marked types, 
the black, the yellow, and the white. However uncertain the 
aims of physiology may be, however meagre its resources, however 
defective its methods, it can proceed thus far with absolute 

The negroid variety is the lowest, and stands at the foot of the 
ladder. The animal character, that appears in the shape of the 
pelvis, is stamped on the negro from birth, and foreshadows his 
destiny. His intellect will always move within a very narrow 
circle. He is not however a mere brute, for behind his low 
receding brow, in the middle of his skull, we can see signs of 
a powerful energy, however crude its objects. If his mental 
faculties are dull or even non-existent, he often has an intensity 
of desire, and so of will, which may be called terrible. Many of 
his senses, especially taste and smell, are developed to an extent 
unknown to the other two races.* 

The very strength of his sensations is the most striking proof 

of his inferiority. All food is good in his eyes, nothing disgusts 

or repels him. What he desires is to eat, to eat furiously, and to 

excess ; no carrion is too revolting to be swallowed by him. It 

p * "Taste and smell in the negro are as powerful as they are undis- 
criminating. He eats everything, and odours which are revolting to us 
are pleasant to him " (Pruner). 



is the same with odours ; his inordinate desires are satisfied with 
all, however coarse or even horrible. To these qualities may be 
added an instability and capriciousness of feeling, that cannot be 
tied down to any single object, and which, so far as he is concerned, 
do away with all distinctions of good and evil. We might even 
say that the violence with which he pursues the object that has 
aroused his senses and inflamed his desires is a guarantee of the 
desires being soon satisfied and the object forgotten. Finally, 
he is equally careless of his own life and that of others : he kills 
willingly, for the sake of killing ; and this human machine, in 
whom it is so easy to arouse emotion, shows, in face of suffering, 
either a monstrous indifference or a cowardice that seeks a 
voluntary refuge in death. 

The yellow race is the exact opposite of this type. The skull 
points forward, not backward. The forehead is wide and bony, 
often high and projecting. The shape of the face is triangular, 
the nose and chin showing none of the coarse protuberances that 
mark the negro. There is further a general proneness to obesity, 
which, though not confined to the yellow type, is found there 
more frequently than in the others. The yellow man has little 
physical energy, and is inclined to apathy ; he commits none of 
the strange excesses so common among negroes. His desires are 
feeble, his will-power rather obstinate than violent ; his longing 
for material pleasures, though constant, is kept within bounds. 
A rare glutton by nature, he shows far more discrimination in his 
choice of food. He tends to mediocrity in everything ; he under- 
stands easily enough anything not too deep or sublime.* He has 
a love of utility and a respect for order, and knows the value of a 
certain amount of freedom. He is practical, in the narrowest 
sense of the word. He does not dream or theorize ; he invents 
little, but can appreciate and take over what is useful to him. 
His whole desire is to live in the easiest and most comfortable way 
possible. The yellow races are thus clearly superior to the black. 
Every founder of a civilization would wish the backbone of his 
society, his middle class, to consist of such men. But no civilized 
* Carus, op. cit., p. 60. 



society could be created by them ; they could not supply its 
nerve-force, or set in motion the springs of beauty and action. 

We come now to the white peoples. These are gifted with 
reflective energy, or rather with an energetic intelligence. They 
have a feeling for utility, but in a sense far wider and higher, 
more courageous and ideal, than the yellow races ; a perseverance 
that takes account of obstacles and ultimately finds a means of 
overcoming them ; a greater physical power, an extraordinary 
instinct for order, not merely as a guarantee of peace and tran- 
quillity, but as an indispensable means of self-preservation. At 
the same time, they have a remarkable, and even extreme, love of 
liberty, and are openly hostile to the formalism under which the 
Chinese are glad to vegetate, as well as to the strict despotism 
which is the only way of governing the negro. 

The white races are, further, distinguished by an extraordinary 
attachment to life. They know better how to use it, and so, as it 
would seem, set a greater price on it ; both in their own persons 
and those of others, they are more sparing of life. When they are 
cruel, they are conscious of their cruelty ; it is very doubtful 
whether such a consciousness exists in the negro. At the same 
time, they have discovered reasons why they should surrender 
this busy life of theirs, that is so precious to them. The principal 
motive is honour, which under various names has played an 
enormous part in the ideas of the race from the beginning. I 
need hardly add that the word honour, together with all the 
civilizing influences connoted by it, is unknown to both the 
yellow and the black man. 

On the other hand, the immense superiority of the white 
peoples in the whole field of the intellect is balanced by an 
inferiority in the intensity of their sensations. In the world of 
the senses, the white man is far less gifted than the others, and 
so is less tempted and less absorbed by considerations of the 
body, although in physical structure he is far the most vigorous.* 

Such are the three constituent elements of the human race. 

* Martius observes that the European is superior to the coloured man 
in the pressure of the nervous fluid (Reise in Brasilien, vol. i, p. 259). 



I call them secondary types, as I think myself obliged to omit 
all discussion of the Adamite man. From the combination, by 
intermarriage, of the varieties of these types come the tertiary 
groups. The quaternary formations are produced by the union 
of one of these tertiary types, or of a pure-blooded tribe, with 
another group taken from one of the two foreign species. 

Below these categories others have appeared — and still appear. 
Some of these are very strongly characterized, and form new and 
distinct points of departure, coming as they do from races that 
have been completely fused. Others are incomplete, and ill- 
ordered, and, one might even say, anti-social, since their elements, 
being too numerous, too disparate, or too barbarous, have had 
neither the time nor the opportunity for combining to any 
fruitful purpose. No limits, except the horror excited by the 
possibility of infinite intermixture, can be assigned to the number 
of these hybrid and chequered races that make up the whole of 

It would be unjust to assert that every mixture is bad and 
harmful. If the three great types had remained strictly separate, 
the supremacy would no doubt have always been in the hands 
of the finest of the white races, and the yellow and black varieties 
would have crawled for ever at the feet of the lowest of the whites. 
Such a state is so far ideal, since it has never been beheld in 
history ; and we can imagine it only by recognizing the undis- 
puted superiority of those groups of the white races which have 
remained the purest. 

It would not have been all gain. The superiority of the white 
race would have been clearly shown, but it would have been 
bought at the price of certain advantages which have followed 
the mixture of blood. Although these are far from counter- 
balancing the defects they have brought in their train, yet they 
are sometimes to be commended. Artistic genius, which is \ 
equally foreign to each of the three great types, arose only after , t 
the intermarriage of white and black. Again, in the Malayan j) 
variety, a human family was produced from the yellow and black 
races that had more intelligence than either of its ancestors. 




Finally, from the union of white and yellow, certain intermediary 
peoples have sprung, who are superior to the purely Finnish 
tribes as well as to the negroes. 

I do not deny that these are good results. The world of art 
and great literature that comes from the mixture of blood, the 
improvement and ennoblement of inferior races — all these are 
wonders for which we must needs be thankful. The small have 
been raised. Unfortunately, the great have been lowered by the 
same process ; and this is an evil that nothing can balance or 
repair. Since I am putting together the advantages of racial 
mixtures, I will also add that to them is due the refinement of 
manners and beliefs, and especially the tempering of passion and 
desire. But these are merely transitory benefits, and if I recog- 
nize that the mulatto, who may become a lawyer, a doctor, or 
a business man, is worth more than his negro grandfather, who 
was absolutely savage, and fit for nothing, I must also confess 
that the Brahmans of primitive India, the heroes of the Iliad 
and the Shahnameh, the warriors of Scandinavia — the glorious 
shades of noble races that have disappeared — give us a higher 
and more brilliant idea of humanity, and were more active, 
intelligent, and trusty instruments of civilization and grandeur 
than the peoples, hybrid a hundred times over, of the present 
day. And the blood even of these was no longer pure. 

However it has come about, the human races, as we find them 
in history, are complex ; and one of the chief consequences has 
been to throw into disorder most of the primitive characteristics 
of each type. The good as well as the bad qualities are seen 
to diminish in intensity with repeated intermixture of blood ; 
but they also scatter and separate off from each other, and are 
often mutually opposed. The white race originally possessed 
the monopoly of beauty, intehigence, and strength. By its 
union with other varieties, hybrids were created, which were 
beautiful without strength, strong without intelligence, or, if 
intelligent, both weak and ugly. Further, when the quantity of 
white blood was increased to an indefinite amount by successive 
infusions, and not by a single admixture, it no longer carried 

o 209 


with it its natural advantages, and often merely increased the 
confusion already existing in the racial elements. Its strength, 
in fact, seemed to be its only remaining quality, and even its 
strength served only to promote disorder. The apparent 
anomaly is easily explained. Each stage of a perfect mixture 
produces a new type from diverse elements, and develops special 
faculties. As soon as further elements are added, the vast diffi- 
culty of harmonizing the whole creates a state of anarchy. The 
more this increases, the more do even the best and richest of 
the new contributions diminish in value, and by their mere 
presence add fuel to an evil which they cannot abate. If mix- 
tures of blood are, to a certain extent, beneficial to the mass of 
mankind, if they raise and ennoble it, this is merely at the expense 
of mankind itself, which is stunted, abased, enervated, and 
humiliated in the persons of its noblest sons. Even if we admit 
that it is better to turn a myriad of degraded beings into mediocre 
men than to preserve the race of princes whose blood is adul- 
terated and impoverished by being made to suffer this dis- 
honourable change, yet there is still the unfortunate fact that the 
change does not stop here ; for when the mediocre men are once 
created at the expense of the greater, they combine with other 
mediocrities, and from such unions, which grow ever more and 
more degraded, is born a confusion which, like that of Babel, ends 
in uttere impotence, and leads societies down to the abyss of 
nothingness whence no power on earth can rescue them. 

Such is the lesson of history. It shows us that all civilizations 
derive from the white race, that none can exist without its help, 
and that a society is great and brilliant only so far as it preserves 
the blood of the noble group that created it, provided that this 
group itself belongs to the most illustrious branch of our species. 

Of the multitude of peoples which live or have lived on the 
earth, ten alone have risen to the position of complete societies. 
The remainder have gravitated round these more or less inde- 
pendently, like planets round their suns. If there is any element 
of life in these ten civilizations that is not due to the impulse 
of the white races, any seed of death that does not come from 



the inferior stocks that mingled with them, then the whole theory 
on which this book rests is false. On the other hand, if the facts 
are as I say, then we have an irrefragable proof of the nobility 
of our own species. Only the actual details can set the final 
seal of truth on my system, and they alone can show with suffi- 
cient exactness the full implications of my main thesis, that 
peoples degenerate only in consequence of the various admixtures 
of blood which they undergo ; that their degeneration corresponds 
exactly to the quantity and quality of the new blood, and that 
the rudest possible shock to the vitality of a civilization is given 
when the ruling elements in a society and those developed by 
racial change have become so numerous that they are clearly 
moving away from the homogeneity necessary to their life, and 
it therefore becomes impossible for them to be brought into 
harmony and so acquire the common instincts and interests, 
the common logic of existence, which is the sole justification for 
any social bond whatever. There is no greater curse than such 
disorder, for however bad it may have madfe the present state of 
things, it promises still worse for the future. 

Note. — The " ten civilizations " mentioned in the last para- 
graph are as follows. They are fully discussed in the subsequent 
books of the " Inequality of Races," of which the present volume 
forms the first. 

I. The Indian civilization, which reached its highest point 
round the Indian Ocean, and in the north and east of the Indian 
Continent, south-east of the Brahmaputra. It arose from a 
branch of a white people, the Aryans. 

II. The Egyptians, round whom collected the Ethiopians, the 
Nubians, and a few smaller peoples to the west of the oasis of 
Ammon. This society was created by an Aryan colony from 
India, that settled in the upper valley of the Nile. 

III. The Assyrians, with whom may be classed the Jews, the 
Phoenicians, the Lydians, the Carthaginians, and the Hymiarites. 



They owed their civilizing qualities to the great white invasions 
which may be grouped under the name of the descendants of 
Shem and Ham. The Zoroastrian Iranians who ruled part of 
Central Asia under the names of Medes, Persians, and Bactrians, 
were a branch of the Aryan family. 

IV. The Greeks, who came from the same Aryan stock, as 
modified by Semitic elements. 

V. The Chinese civilization, arising from a cause similar to 
that operating in Egypt. An Aryan colony from India brought 
the light of civilization to China also. Instead however of 
becoming mixed with black peoples, as on the Nile, the colony 
became absorbed in Malay and yellow races, and was reinforced, 
from the north-west, by a fair number of white elements, equally 
Aryan but no longer Hindu. 

VI. The ancient civilization of the Italian peninsula, the cradle 
of Roman culture. This was produced by a mixture of Celts, 
Iberians, Aryans, and Semites. 

VII. The Germanic races, which in the fifth century trans- 
formed the Western mind. These were Aryans. 

VIII. -X. The three civilizations of America, the Alleghanian, 
the Mexican, and the Peruvian. 

Of the first seven civilizations, which are those of the Old 
World, six belong, at least in part, to the Aryan race, and the 
seventh, that of Assyria, owes to this race the Iranian Renaissance, 
which is, historically, its best title to fame. Almost the whole 
of the Continent of Europe is inhabited at the present time by 
groups of which the basis is white, but in which the non-Aryan 
elements are the most numerous. There is no true civilization, 
among the European peoples, where the Aryan branch is not 

In the above list no negro race is seen as the initiator of a 
civilization. Only when it is mixed with some other can it even 
be initiated into one. 

Similarly, no spontaneous civilization is to be found among 
the yellow races ; and when the Aryan blood is exhausted 
stagnation supervenes. 



Abraham, 123 

Abu-Hanifah, 123 

Achaemenidae, 176 

Adair, 72 

Adam, n 8-9, 145 

^Eschylus, 14, 99 

Agrippa, 17 

Albigenses, 198 

Alcaeus, 94 

Alexander the Great, 44, 175-6, 

Alexandria, 61 
Alexandrians, 38, 176 
Algiers, 171 

Alleghany race, 71, 172 
Altaic languages, 183 
Altai Mountains, 128, 141 
Amalfi, 61 
America, Anglo-Saxons of North, 

39, 71, 160 n. 
Anabaptists, 20 
Anaxagoras, 14 
Ancorso, 143 
Andes, 115 
Anglo-Saxons, 30, 69 
Annam, 164 
Anne, Queen, 42 
Antilles, 50 
Antioch, 60 
Antonines, 1 5 
Antoninus Pius, 1 1 
Anubis, 66 
Apollo, 108-9 
Appius Claudius, 9 
Arabs, 21, 58, 122-5, I 77~9 
Aral, Lake, 128 
Aramaic, 194 
Aranda, Count of, 52 
Ararat, Mount, 142 
Araucans, 119 
Arbela, 33 
Arcadia, 59 
Arginusae, 158 
Aristophanes, 14, 157 
Aristotle, 166 
Arkansas, 71 ' 

Armagnacs, 12 

Armenians, 58, 193 

Arsacidae, 177 

Artibonite, 48 

Aryan languages, 183, 188, 199 

Aryavarta, 32 

Aseddin, 129 

Ashik-Pacha-Zadeh, 130 n. 

Aspasia, 14 

Assyria, 2, 7, 56, 79 

Assyrians, 87, 126 

Athene, 94 

Athenians, 7 ; religion, 13, 17 ; art 

and politics, 157-8 
Athens, 59, 104 
Atlas, Mount, 141 
Attila, 132 
Aurelian, 17 
Auvergne, 121 
Aymaras, 85 
Aztecs, 8, 13, 192 

Baber, 129 n. 

Babylon, 10, 194 

Bagdad, 178 

Baker, 137-8 

Balaibalan, 188 

Bambaras, 180 

Barrow, 121 n. 

Basques, 194 

Belgium, 92, 99 

Berbers, 194, 201 

Berlin, climate of, 38 

Bernard, St., 69 

Bichat, 24 

Birman, 190 

Blumenbach, 109-10, 119, 146 

Boeotia, 59 

Bordeaux, 60 

Born, Bertran de, 197 

Bossuet, 12 

Brahmans, 32, 65 ; civilization, 83, 
97, 209 ; religion, 142 ; pa- 
cifism, 161 

Brazil, 125 n. 

Bremen, 60 



Breton, language, 201 
Brittany, 17, 44, 101 n. 
Buddhists, 65, 97 
Burgundian, 201 
Bushmen, 187 

Caciques, 171 

Cadiz, 1 50 

Caesar, Julius, 15, 158 

Calabrians, 121 

Calvinists, 41 

Camper, 108-10 

Canaries, 144, 155 

Cappadocians, 193 

Capri, 60 

Carians, 193 

Caroline Islands, 173 

Carthage, 13 

Carthaginians, 35, 38, 66, 79 

Carus, 54 n., 74 n., 11 1-4, 149 

Catalans, 92 

Catawhas, 172 

Cato, 158 

Catullus, 166 

Caucasian, 119, 146 

Caucasus, 127, 141-2, 187 

Celtic languages, 189-90, 196-201 

Celts, 32, 35, 172 

Chagres, 61 

Charlemagne, 1 50 

Charles I, of England, 41 ; VII, of 
France, 43 

Cherokees, 69, 71-2, 74, 121, 172 

China, 7, 20 ; climate of, 56-7 

Chinese, 33 ; as traders, 58 • Chinese 
Christians, 64-5 ; material 
civilization, 87, 95-7 ; per- 
manent characteristics, 138 ; 
language, 184-5 

Chiquitos, 202 

Chlodwig, 160 n. 

Christianity, its fight against pagan- 
ism, 45 ; relation to civiliza- 
tion, chap, vii passim 

Cicero, 158 

Cincinnatus, 1 1 

Cingalese, 126 

Cirionos, 53 

Civilization, Guizot's definition, 
80-1 ; von Humboldt's defini- 
tion, 82 ; Gobineau's definition, 
91 ; list of — s, 211-12 

Co-adjutor, 41 

Columbus, 144 

Confucius, 74 n. 

Constantine, 1 5 

Constantinople, 61 , 128, 150 

Coptic, 185 11. 

Cordilleras, the, 64 

Cordova, 29, 177 

Corinth, 59 

Coromandel Coast, 122 

Cortes, 8, 192 

Creeks, 71 

Croats, 29 

Cuba, 51 

Cuvier, 118, 136 141 

Cuzco, 167 

Cyrus the Great, 10 

Dahomey, 48, 85 

Damascus, 57 

Dante, 198 

Darius, 10, 33, 176 

Davis, 96 

Deccan, 147 

Decius, 17 

Degeneration, meaning of, 25 

Delaware, 190 

Delhi, 34 

Demeter, 59, 94 

Diocletian, 17, 96 

Djelat-Eddin-Rumi, 188 

Dodona, 175 

Draco, 40 

Druids, 44 

Ecbatana, 175 
Egypt, 2, 7, 56 
Egyptians, 30, 80 ; civilization, 87 ; 

relations with Islam, 178 
Ekkhili, 201 
England, luxury in, 8 ; change in 

institutions, 42 
English, as rulers of India, 34 ; 

civilization, 81, 92, 97-102 
Epicurus, 13 
Erie, Lake, 55 
Eskimos, 64-5, 69, 131 
Etruscans, 80, 121 
Euhemerus, 16 
Euphrates, 56 
Europeans, physical and mental 

characteristics of, 107-8 and 

chaps, x, xii, xvi, passim 
Euskara, 201, 203 
Eve, 119 

Fabii, 33, 159 
Farnese Hercules, 108 
Fatimites, 7 
Fellatahs, 48 



Fenelon, 12 

Ferdinand the Catholic, 41 
Finns, 38, 127-32, 146 
Flourens, 116 

France, luxury in, 8 ; under English 
rule, 20 ; change in institutions, 


Franklin, 180 n. 

Franks, 199 

French, civilization of, 81, 92 ; 
power of resistance, 152; lan- 
guage, 189, 196-201 

Galerius, 16 

Galla, 67 

Gallatin, 72. 

Gallo-Romans, 11, 197 

Gar in le Loherain, 200-1 

Gauls, the, independence of, 1 70 

Gayaseddin-Keikosrev, 129 

Genesis, Book of, 11 7-8 

Genoese, 8, 79 

Gerando, 132 

Germanic tribes, 87, 91, 93, 128 ; 

language, 189-90, 198-9 
Germany, religious wars in, 2 1 
Gioberti, 151 
Goethe, 83, 185 n. 
Gothic, 190 
Goths, 10, 197 
Greece, 2, 7 ; Christianity in, 17 ; 

climate of, 59 
Greeks, 8, 10 ; civilization, 87-8, 

92, 94 ; religion, 142 ; relation 

to Persians, 174-6; language, 

Grenada, 29 
Grimm, Monsieur de, 49 
Guaranis, 52-3 
Guizot, 77-82 
Gutenberg, 165 

Ham, 29, 48 

Hamites, 118, 146 

Hanover, 92 

Hanseatic towns, 60 

Harmodius, 10 

Hawaii, 47 

Hayti, 48-51 

Hedjaz, 178 

Helvetius, 151 

Henry IV, of France, 43 

Heracles, Tyrian, 66 

Hindus, 29-30, 76 ; civilization, 80, 

87, 91 ; age of marriage 

among, 124 

Holbach, Baron, 49 

Holland, 92, 99 

Homer, 157 

Hottentots, 121, 180 

Humboldt, A. von, 129 n., 132 «., 

137 n, 144 n 
Humboldt, W. von, 82-4, 183 n., 

187, 192, 195 
Hungary, 29 
Huns, 132 
Huron, 37 
Hussites, 20 

Hybrids, fertility of, 1 1 5-7 
Hyderabad, 34 

Iberians, 172-3 

Ibn-Foszlan, 160 n. 

Iliad, the, 199, 209 

Illyrians, 172 

India, 7 ; government of, by the 
English, 34 ; climate, 56-7 ; 
art, 104 

Indians, North-American, see Red- 

Indians, South-American, 171 

Ishmael, 122, 177 

Isis, 66 

Isola Madre, 144 

Jamaica, 51 

James I, of England, 42 

Janissaries, 130 

Japanese, 64, 80 

Japhet, 118 

Javanese, 45, 171 

Jerome, St., 197 

Jesuits, 51-3, 68, 125 n. 

Jews, 3, 29 ; growth, 58-9; religion, 

66; physical identity, 122-3 ; 

language, 194-5 
Jovian, 1 1 
Judaea, 13 
Julia, 15 n. 
Julian, 16 
Jupiter, 13 

Kabyles, 57 
Kaffirs, 85, 180 
Kalidasa, 157 
Kalmucks, 108 
Kamaun, 147 
Kamehameha III, 47 
Katai Mountains, 128 
Kawi, 190 

Khalil Chendereli, 130 
Khor^abad, 126 




Kirghiz-Kasaks, 132 
Klemm, 86 n. 
Koran, 123-4 
Krapff, 125 «. 
Kurds, 29 

L^lius, 14 

Lahore, 34 

Lander, 180 

Languedoc, 122 

Langue d'oil, 197, 199-201 

Lapps, 69, 127, 131, 133 

Latin, rustic, 196-7 

Leila, 124 

Lenni-Lenapes, 55 n., 190-1 

Lingua romana, 189, 197-9 

Littre, 199 

London, mixture of races in, 1 50 

Louis XIV, 12, 21, 151 

Lucrece, 9 

Ludolf, 114 n. 

Lutherans, Danish, 69 

Lycurgus, 40, 42 

Lyons, 60 

Macaulay, Lord, 198 

Macedonians, the, 30, 175 

Magadha, 7 

Magi, 13 

Magyars, 29, 131-3 

Malabar, 122 

Malays, 58, 11 1-3, 152, 208 

Manchus, 20 

Manu, Code of, 32 

Marcius, Ancus, 15 n. 

Marianne Islands, the, 172 

Marseilles, 60 

Martial, 166 

Martinique, 51 

Maximin, 16 

Medusa, 109 

Meiners, 107 n. 

Memphis, 38 

Meru, 142 

Mexico, Gulf of, 55 

Mieris, 113 n. 

Milan, 60 

Mississippi, 71 

Missouri, 55 

Mohammedans, 51, 177-9 

Mohammed IV, 1 30 

Mohammed (the Prophet), 177-8 

Mongols, 20 ; Mongol Christians, 
64 ; material civilization, 85 ; 
physical characteristics, n 1-5, 
1 50. See also Yellow Races 


Montausier, the, 12 

Montpellier, 178 

Moors, 41 

Moravians, 69, 161 

Morosini, 193 

Morton, 111 

Mulattoes, 149, 209 

Muskhogees, 172 

Mussulmans, see Mohammedans 

Napoleon, 41, 151 

Narbonese Gaul, 44 

Narbonne, 60 

Natchez, 172 

Negroes, incapacity for civilization, 
74 _ S ; physical and mental 
characteristics, chaps, x, xii, 
xvi, passim 

Nero, 17 

Nestorians, 29 

Neustria, 133 

New Zealanders, 1 52 

Nimrud, 168 

Nineveh, 104 

Normandy, climate of, 144 

Normans, 31, 60 

Novgorod, 60 

Numidia, 94 

Nushirwan, 128 w. 

Oceania, 46, 57, 107, 116, 162 

Odenathus, 177 

Oghuzes, 128-9 

Olympia, 175 

Olympus, Mount, 142 

d'Orbigny, 163 «., 202 

Orenburg, 76 

Ortoghrul, 129 

Osman, 129-30 

Osmanlis, 129-30 

Ostiaks, 127, 133 

Othomi, 185 n. 

Owen, 1 09-1 1 

Palestine, climate of, 59 

Palmyra, 177 

Panama, 61 

Paraguay, 51-3, 125 n. 

Parana, 53 

Paris, 10, 43, 60 ; mixture of races 

in, 150 
Park, Mungo, 180 
Parsees, 29 
Parthenon, 193 
Pathans, 76 
Paul, St., 17 


Pecheray, 150 

Pelagian, 1 50 

Perm, 39 

Pericles, 14, 94, 1 57 

Permians, 133 

Persepolis, 126, 176 

Persians, 8, 13, 29-30, 33 ; relation 

to Greeks, 174-6 ; relation to 

Arabs, 178-9 
Peru, 13, 85 
Peruvians, 80, 115; civilization, 

167 ; language, 192 
Philae, 104 

Philip of Macedon, 94 
Philip the Arabian, 177 
Phoenicians, 9, 35, 57, 79 
Picardy, 201 
Piedmont, 87 
Pindar, 94, 1 57 
Pisans, 8, 79 
Plato, 157, 166 
Pliny, 159, 166 
Plutarch, 5 

Polynesians, 27, 85, 147 
Pompeius, 158 
Pontus, 7 

Postumus, C. Junius, 159 
Praetorian Guard, 16 
Prakriti, 86 
Prichard, 8, 73, chap, x passim, 123, 

125, 137, 146 
Prometheus, 142 
Purusha, 86 

Quaternary type, 149 
Quichuas, 85, 115 
Quito, 167 

Radack Islands, the, 143 

Ravenna, 61 

Raynal, Abbe, 6 

Rechabites, 122 

Redskins of North America, their 
treatment, 46 ; skull-measure- 
ment, 1 1 1-2; exclusiveness, 
1 70- 1 

Regent of France (Anne of Austria), 


Rocky Mountains, 55 

Roman Empire, fall of, 2-3, 33 

Romans, 8, 9 ; civilization, 87, 92, 
94-7 ; modernity, 158-9 ; dif- 
fusion of books among, 166 

Rome, luxury in, 8 ; religion in, 13, 
17, 66 ; climate of, 59-60 

Rosa, St., 68 

Roussillon, 122 
Rubens, 113 «. 
Rum, 129 
Russia, 8, 152 
Russians, 76 

de Sacy, 187 

Sakuntala, 124 

Salsette, 104 

Samal, 143 

Samoyedes, 27, 85, 127, 131 

San Domingo, 48-51 

Sandwich Islands, 46-7 

Sanscrit, 188-91, 203 

Saracens, 197 

Sarah, 123 

Sassanidae, 177 

Saxons, 29 

Scandinavians, 133, 209 

Schlotzer, 132 

Scilly Isles, 173 

Scipio, 14, 35 

Scythians, 129 n., 133 

Seljukians, 129-30 

Seminoles, 172 

Semites, 29, 118, 146 

Semitic languages, 184, 188-9 

Seneca, 161 

Septimius Severus, 1 1 

Shahnameh , the, 209 

Sharuz, 128 

Shelley, u n. 

Shem, 29 

Siamese, 164 ». 

Siculi, 132 

Sicyon, 175 

Sidon, 57 

Slavs, 32, 74, 92 

Socrates, 14 

Sophocles, 14 

Spain, 20 ; Arabs in, 29 

Spaniards, in South America, 46, 

52 ; independence of, 170 
Sparta, 59, 175 
Spartacus, 159 
Spartans, 9, 40, 79 
Squier, 55 n. 

St. Bartholomew's day, 12 
Strafford, Earl of, 41 
Suetonius, 15 n. 
Sufis, 188 
Sulla, 158 

Sulpicius Severus, 197 
Swabia, 79 

Switzerland, 124 ; climate of, 144 
Syria, 79 



Syrians, 94, 172, 177-9 

Tacitus, 5, 17 
Tahitians, 154 
Talmud, 195 
Tatars, 146 
Tchingiz, 129 11. 
Tenochtitlan, 104 
Terah, 194 
Teresa, St., 69 
Tertiary type, 147 
Tertullian, 159 
Teutates, 13 
Thebaid, 69 
Thirty Tyrants, 20 
Thucydides, 6 
Thuringia, 79 
Tiberius, 60 
Tibetans, 80, 91, 97 
Tigris, 56 
Tihuanaco, 167 
Tlaxcala, 159 
Tocqueville, de, 72 n. 
Toledo, 29 
Tonga -Tabu, 154 
Tonkin, 164 
Toulouse, 60 
Touraine, 100 n. 
Trajan, 11, 159 
Treves, 60, 197 
Tribunate, the, 9 
Triptolemus, 59 
Tungusians, 117, 127, 133 
Turanians, 128 
Turkestan, 128 
Turkey, 29 
Turks, 29, 127-31 
Tylos, 57 
Tyre, 13, 57 

Ulea, 143 
Ulfilas, 190 

Ur, 194 
Urkan, 130 
Uruguay, 53 

Valentia, 29 

Valerius Publicola, 10 

Valmiki, 157 

Vaqueiras, Raimbaut de, 198 

Venetians, 8, 79 

Venice, 60 

Venus, 108 

Virgil, 166 

Voltaire, 5 

Vrolik, 1 1 4- 5 

Wallachians, 29, 190 

Wanikas, 125 n. 

Washington, 39 

White races, definition, 146 ; see 

also Europeans 
William III, of England, 21, 81 

Xerxes, 176 - 

Yellow races, physical and mental 
characteristics of, chaps, x, xii, 
xvi passim ; definition, 146 ; 
see also Mongols 

Yemen, 178 

Yolofs, 180 

Yo-kiao-li, 125 n. 

Yunnan, 87 

Zama, battle of, 35 
Zend, 201 
Zeno, 14 
Zenobia, 177 
Zerubbabel, 194 
Zingaris, 124, 195 n. 
Zita, St., 69 
Zuleika, 124 




Translated by Paul V. Cohn, with an Introductory 

Essay on Count Gobineau's Life and Work, 

by Dr. Oscar Levy 

One Volume, Demy 8vo, Illustrated, ios net 


THESE five historical dramas cover the flowering time of 
the Italian Renaissance from the rise to prominence of 
Savonarola (1492) to the last days of Michael Angelo 
(about 1560). While grouped round the leading figures 
who provide the titles — Savonarola, Cesare Borgia, Julius II, 
Leo X, and Michael Angelo — the plays introduce almost every 
interesting character of the period. Nor are we only concerned 
with the great names ; the author aims at catching the spirit of the 
people, and the thoughts and feelings of soldier, artisan, trader, and 
their womenfolk find ample voice in his pages. 

The Italian Renaissance is an epoch of peculiar interest to 
English readers, not least because of its profound influence on our 
own Elizabethan age. It is perhaps the most many-sided period 
in history : even fifth-century Greece scarcely contributed so 
much — or at any rate so much that has survived — to the world of 
politics, art, and thought. Now while this interest is amply 
reflected in contemporary literature, from the monumental work 
of Symonds down to the flotsam and jetsam of everyday fiction, 
there is one kind of man who more than an historian would show 
insight into this age, and that is a poet. 

It is as a poet's work that Gobineau's "Historical Scenes" recom- 
mend themselves to the public. But there are many kinds of 
poets ; there is the religious and moral kind, there is the irreligious 
and sub-moral kind, and there is the super-religious and super- 
moral kind. Only the last-named can understand, can feel, can 
sympathise with such mighty figures as Cesare Borgia and 
Julius II — the religious poet being inclined to paint them as 


monsters, the sub-religious as freaks and neurotics. Similia 
similibus : equals can only be recognised by their equals, and 
Gobineau was himself a type of the Renaissance flung by destiny 
into an age of low bourgeois and socialist ideals. In a century 
swayed by romanticism and democracy, Gobineau was a classic 
and an aristocrat. He is a forerunner of Nietzsche (" the only 
European spirit I should care to converse with," said Nietzsche 
of him in a letter), and as such is peculiarly fitted to deal with one 
of the few periods that was not dominated by the moral law. For 
this reason Gobineau cannot fail to attract the large and ever- 
growing circle of students of Nietzsche in this country and 

" I can only add that this is a volume of serious import, worth reading from cover to 
cover, a book which even a jaded reviewer closes with a sigh of regret that he has not 
got to read it all over again.'' — G. S. Layard in the Bookman. 

" We scarcely know whether to be more struck with the truth or liveliness of these 
portraits. Savonarola, for example, is something more than the Savonarola of history 
and tradition. Not only is the character of the man subtly brought out ; not only are 
we made aware, for the first time, adequately, of that devouring egotism which could 
see nothing but self as God's instrument, self as the scourge of Florence, self as the 
inspired prophet ; but beneath all this and vouching for it is the consciousness of the 
reality of the man, the consciousness that his cries of distress are real cries, and his 
moments of fierce aspiration and black despair genuine experiences. More touching 
and even more lifelike is the figure of Michael Angelo, a figure in the main familiar 
to us, but endowed with advancing years with a peace of mind, a lucidity of in- 
telligence, and a breadth of sympathy such as were foreign to its young and stormy 
epoch. The last scene between Michael Angelo and Vittoria Colonna is a noble one, 
and can be read more than once with pleasure." — The (^Morning Post. 

"A debt is due to Dr. Oscar Levy for bringing before English readers this translation 
of that great work of Count Gobineau, in which, through the medium of the drama, 
he reveals his reverence for the spirit that inspired the Italian Renaissance. The 
plays constituting the book are five in number, 'Savonarola,' 'Cesare Borgia,' 
' Julius II," 'Leo X,' and ' Michael Angelo,' — and nothing more brilliant has appeared 
in recent times. In scope we can only compare with it Mr. Hardy's ' Dynasts,' but 
no more striking contrast could be conceived than the creations of these two geniuses. 
Through the pages of these plays moves the whole glittering pageant of the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries, a mob of soldiers, priests, artists, men and women, slaying, 
plundering, preaching, poisoning, painting, rioting, and loving, while out of the surgent 
mass rise the figures of the splendid three. Borgia, Julius, and Michael Angelo, 
dominating all by the sheer greatness of their ideas and their contempt for other men's 
opinions. They are the great aristocrats of their time, and the five plays — really one 
in conception — are an assertion of the saving grace of aristocracy, of the glory of race, 
at a time when the democratic flood, whose source is Christianity, was beginning to 
pour over Europe, to the overwhelming of all greatness of thought and art. The 
translation, which is excellent, is by Paul V. Cohn." — Glasgow Herald.